In place of on-field baseball action postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Globe and Mail brings you a computer-simulated tournament involving four of the greatest Canadian teams, using the statistics-based software of the sports-game company Strat-O-Matic. Two first-round series eliminated the 1981 Montreal Expos and the 1985 Toronto Blue Jays, leaving the 1993 Jays and the ’94 Expos to compete for the mythical Macdonald-Cartier Cup. This matchup is Game No. 3 of the final series.
During the seventh-inning stretch at SkyDome, with the game between the 1994 Expos and the home-side ’93 Jays tied 2-2, the shouting rally song OK Blue Jays received its customary playing. “You’ve got a diamond, you’ve got nine men," it begins, before moving on to “You got a dog, and a drink, and an umpire’s call.”
If only the game were as simple as the song’s quaint reductivism suggests. Then again, if one is inclined to confidently rhyme “fly ball” with “seagull,” all problems are easy to solve.
Indeed, the Blue Jays made baseball look utterly uncomplicated in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring three runs with machine-like efficiency. A leadoff single by Pat Borders. A base hit by Rickey Henderson. After a pop out by Devon White, a single by Paul Molitor to load the bases.
After reliever Mel Rojas replaced starter Jeff Fassero, an error by Expo third baseman Sean Berry off a hard-hit grounder by Joe Carter resulted in a run. A walk to John Olerud advanced all runners 90 feet and increased the Jays’ lead to 4-2. A fielder’s-choice ground-out by Roberto Alomar plated the third run of the inning. A one-hopper to pitcher Rojas by Alfredo Griffin stopped the ruthless assembly-line production and ended the inning.
Starter Pat Hentgen pitched a one-two-three eighth inning. Closer Duane Ward did exactly the same in the ninth. With the 5-2 win, the Jays lead the best-of-seven series 2-1. The veteran squad looked more than okay – it appeared near unbeatable.
Scheduled starters for Game No. 4 are lefty Butch Henry (8-3, with a 2.43 earned-run average for the 1994 Expos) and Todd Stottlemyre (11-12, with a 4.84 ERA for the ’93 Jays).
Not a veteran, Hentgen was nevertheless composed in front of a full house at SkyDome, its lid closed as tight as the spin on the 24-year-old’s curve ball. A 19-game winner on the year, Hentgen allowed just seven hits and two runs in eight innings.
“I’ve been able to get a lot of run support, which is pivotal when it comes to wins and losses,” the Michigan native said postgame. "Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep us in the game most of the year.”
He did more than than keep his team in the game. “The biggest surprise of the season was Pat Hentgen,” Ward said, speaking to reporters after the game about a pitcher who had but three starts under his belt before making 32 in the regular season. “Everybody knew he had a good arm. This year it seemed like he put everything together.”
The guy who put everything together was Pat Gillick, executive vice-president of baseball operations for the Jays. After his team won the 1992 World Series, Gillick did not stand pat, replacing Dave Winfield with Molitor in the off-season and trading for Henderson and Tony Fernandez during the season.
The squad he assembled plays with an oppressive kind of moxie. When co-songwriters Jack Lenz and Tony Kosinec were commissioned to write OK Blue Jays in the early 1980s, the Jays were a struggling young franchise looking for a fun, upbeat anthem. Just more than a decade later, the line “Let’s play ball” is less a cheery rally cry than it is a smug challenge to the team’s opponents.
Saturday, The Globe will run a game report and boxscore of Game No. 4 of the final round of our computer-simulated tournament. With Toronto up two games to one, scheduled starters are Todd Stottlemyre for the 1993 Jays and Butch Henry for the ’94 Montreal Expos.