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 in history, using the statistics-based software of the sports-game company Strat-O-Matic. The first-round best-of-seven-game series pits the 1985 Blue Jays against their World Series-winning counterparts from 1993, while on the other side of the bracket the 1981 Expos take on the 1994 Montreal squad. Today’s match-up is Game No. 2 of the all-Jays series.
The game had been over for a half an hour at Exhibition Stadium. The 1993 Toronto Blue Jays defeated their 1985 same-town rivals decisively, 6-0, to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Winning pitcher Dave Stewart, a severe competitor with an intimidating glare on the mound, contributed six innings of three-hit ball. His team has a decisive home-field advantage. Time to lighten up, eh David? Relax, maybe even smile?
Not a chance.
“You want to be that guy,” Stewart said, speaking low and quietly to the few remaining reporters gathering quotes in the visitor’s locker room. “You want to be the pitcher who closes it down. You want to put your foot in their neck. I guess it would almost be like an assassin’s mentality.”
He guesses, but best to take him at his word. The 1985 Blue Jays sure do.
Because of a Pink Floyd concert later in the evening at the stadium, the afternoon game had been moved up an hour, to 12:07 from 1:07. Sounds about right. Stewart’s a high-noon kind of dude.
He used a forkball to beat the 1985 side. It’s a bit of a forgotten pitch – slower than the split-fingered fastball, and with a physics-defying break. The truth, though, Stewart didn’t have his best stuff, no matter what the boxscore says.
“Dave pitched on pure guts,” 1993 manager Cito Gaston said. “He loves to face those challenges."
Stewart’s first pitch was a not-so-fast fastball that leadoff batter Damaso Garcia rocketed right back at him into centre field. Walks to Lloyd Moseby and Willie Upshaw loaded the bases for the 1985 squad. But a sharp grounder by Al Oliver was turned into a double play, ending the threat.
“I had first-inning jitters,” Stewart said with a shrug. “I get them in every game I pitch. I have a notorious reputation. Today was no different.”
In the bottom of the second inning, 1985 catcher Ernie Whitt, who looks like a curling skip and runs like one, too, doubled off the right-field wall. Stewart induced ground-ball outs from Jesse Barfield and Tony Fernandez to get out of the inning unscathed.
The pitcher nicknamed Smoke was out of steam by the seventh, when leadoff batter Upshaw drew a walk on four pitches. Reliever Tony Castillo carried the shutout into the ninth. Mike Timlin finished things off.
Offensively, the 1993 team hit on at least five of its six cylinders, pounding out 14 hits and six runs against four pitchers. Starter Jimmy Key was dinged for nine hits before being replaced, but only allowed two runs (one of them unearned.)
Lefty Gary Lavelle did his job with two runless innings, but the next reliever, Dennis Lamp, was battered for four runs. He gave up a two-run home run by Joe Carter in the eighth that gave the ’95 side a 4-0 lead.
It looks bad for the 1985 team, down two games to none, heading into the 1993 team’s stadium, the SkyDome, for three. The scheduled pitchers for Game No. 3 are Doyle Alexander (17-10, with a 3.45 ERA in 1985) and Pat Hentgen (19-9, with a 3.87 ERA in 1993).
Is it possible that the ’93 side will be overconfident, facing the demoralized ’85ers?
“Not a chance,” Stewart answered, flashing a devastating side-glance, no smile. “Next question.”
On Monday, The Globe will run a game report and boxscore of Game No. 2 of the Montreal side of our computer-simulated tournament. Scheduled starting pitchers are Bill Gullickson for the 1981 Expos and Pedro Martinez for the Expos of ’94, currently up one game to none. The winner of the best-of-seven series will face the victors of the matchup between the Toronto teams from 1985 and 1993. The last team standing wins the Macdonald-Cartier Cup.