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.
Asked at a news conference earlier in the week about the series between the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays and his 1994 Montreal Expos, all-star outfielder Moises Alou predicted an outcome of sorts. “It’s going to be wild,” he said, giving no tips at all to the betting people. And, then, in Game No. 1, he went out and fulfilled his prophecy. A three-run home run off Jays starter Juan Guzman in a crazy at-bat in the bottom of the fourth inning represented all the offence the Expos would need to take a 1-0 series lead in the Macdonald-Cartier Cup final series.
Scheduled starters for Game No. 2 are Toronto’s Dave Stewart (12-8, with a 4.44 earned-run average in 1993) and Montreal’s Pedro Martinez (11-5, with a 3.42 ERA in 1994).
With Marquis Grissom and Cliff Floyd on base after consecutive singles to open Montreal’s half of the fourth inning, Guzman threw a sinker that had more dip in it than his Jheri curl hairdo. The pitch may or may not have hit Alou on the toe of his front foot, but the batter was selling the former as he began to jog to first base. Home plate umpire Dave Phillips called him back, though. He had called the pitch, which catcher Pat Borders had scooped up clean, a ball.
Alou argued the call, as did his father, Expos manager Felipe Alou. In the seats, Expos super-fan Donald Sutherland was beside himself. Expos mascot Youppi! hopped around on one big furry foot, feigning injury in a way that taunted Phillips to the point that the umpire threw the mascot from the ball game.
“Youppi!'s a jerk,” said Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, serving as a guest commentator on NBC’s broadcast of the game. Those two have a history. The lovable, colourful Lasorda is something of a mascot himself – he might be jealous of Youppi!
When the at-bat finally continued, a brush-back pitch from Guzman further riled up the crowd. Two straight strikes evened the count. Alou lined the fifth pitch to deep left field to settle the confrontation.
Up to that point in the game, Guzman was cruising like Smokey Robinson. After the national anthems were performed by Gino Vannelli, the Jays’ Rickey Henderson opened the game with a walk, a stolen base and a run scored on a one-out ground-out to second base by Roberto Alomar. In the second inning, Paul Molitor lofted a solo home run off Expos starter Ken Hill to give the high-priced team from Toronto a 2-0 lead.
Hill, 16-5 on the season, settled down. He departed after six innings, leaving things in the hands of Mel Rojas, Gil Heredia, Jeff Shaw and closer John Wetteland, in that order. The Jays threatened somewhat in the top of the ninth when John Olerud reached base on an error. But Tony Fernandez grounding into a double play ended any comeback hopes.
The Expos celebrated on the field. Youppi! was missed. The crowd sang along to the strains of Leonard Cohen’s Closing Time on the stadium public address system:
Yeah, the women tear their blouses off
And the men they dance on the polka-dots
And it’s partner found, it’s partner lost
And it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops
It’s closing time
Closing time? Hardly. This thing has only begun.
Thursday, The Globe and Mail will run a game report and box score of Game No. 2 of the final round of our computer-simulated tournament. Scheduled starters are Dave Stewart for the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays and Pedro Martinez for the 1994 Montreal Expos.