Blue Jays' offensive display thrills Montreal crowd
Nanita gets walk-off hit after Bautista homers, Encarnacion goes 3-for-4
MONTREAL -- Chants of "Let's go Expos!" ricocheted off Olympic Stadium's walls and roof, generating higher decibels than a crowd of 46,121 usually can. The Expos were not playing, of course; Friday's game pitted the Mets and Blue Jays against each other for the first of two exhibitions.
Still, the cacophony corroborated the claims of so many here, that Montreal is again capable of supporting a Major League team.
Whether that ever happens remains to be seen. In the interim, Montreal's fans made do with one of the more supercharged exhibitions any team has played in recent memory. Ten years after the Expos played their final game here, Ricardo Nanita led the Blue Jays to a walk-off 5-4 win over the Mets amid a playoff atmosphere.
"It was tremendous," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "They started rocking there in the middle of the game; I thought it was going to collapse. It's a great preparation for us to get ready for the start of the season."
"I thought it was great for the city of Montreal," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I thought it was good for baseball. I really did. Both teams really responded to [the atmosphere]. Usually this time in spring, guys are looking for ways to get out of the lineup. Tonight they wanted to stay in the lineup because of the fans."
After Munenori Kawasaki doubled to lead off the bottom of the ninth and moved to third on Melky Cabrera's groundout, Mets closer Bobby Parnell hit Edwin Encarnacion to load the bases. That brought up Nanita, who ripped a single back up the middle.
As the crowd roared, the Blue Jays rushed the field to meet Nanita.
"When the fans started stomping on the ground, it got really loud," said Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie. "It was a lot of fun. There was a good energy in the building and definitely good to come away with the win."
Fighting for the lone remaining unsettled spot on New York's Opening Day roster, starter Jenrry Mejia cruised early, allowing his only run on Jose Bautista's homer leading off the fourth. Mejia gave up just four other hits and a walk, striking out three, but departed after taking a comebacker off his right forearm with no outs in the fifth.
The final tuneup for Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle also went mostly as planned, with four innings of two-run ball. Chris Young's two-run double in the fourth inning was the only damage against him.
An inning later, Daniel Murphy plated Ruben Tejada with a double, extending the Mets' lead to two runs. Travis d'Arnaud, who spent three years in the Blue Jays organization before headlining the trade that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto, later cranked a solo homer off Long Island native Marcus Stroman to give the Mets some insurance. But the Blue Jays tied the score on Encarnacion's two-run single off Gonzalez Germen in the seventh, sending tens of thousands of Canadian fans into a frenzy.
For Montreal's citizens, this weekend's games create an informal opportunity to petition the return of baseball to Quebec. Former Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie, who has been an active voice in the movement to relocate one of Major League Baseball's teams back to Canada, stirred the crowd before the game with an impassioned plea.
"I guess I'm a loyalist," Cromartie said. "I know it's an ambitious journey, but I know in time people will start listening."
Cromartie, Tim Raines and Steve Rogers took part in a pregame ceremony honoring Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, drawing raucous cheers from all in attendance.
"It's a great city, and they put together some great teams," said Collins, whose first Major League victory came against the Expos. "If they want a team that bad, then I hope the support is better than it was when they shut it down. I always look at baseball fans as baseball fans. It doesn't matter who's playing; if you're a baseball fan, you can watch the games. So certainly, if they get a team back here ... They've had the support in the past, there's no reason why they shouldn't get it again."
Up next: The Mets and Blue Jays play another exhibition in a free MLB.TV broadcast on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET at Olympic Stadium, with Daisuke Matsuzaka squaring off against fellow right-hander Brandon Morrow. It is the final spring game for both clubs, and it should be another loud one; stadium officials expect Saturday's attendance to surpass Friday's crowd of 46,121.