A monstrous crowd of 46,314 jammed Olympic Stadium Friday night to witness what was, in fairness, an extremely boring game. The pomp and circumstance were top notch but the subsequent baseball was anything but. On the positive side, most of the Blue Jays pitchers looked good, especially Mark Buehrle and Brett Cecil.
The event got underway with Russell Martin's father performing both anthems on the saxophone before his son got to take the field alone to a rousing ovation from the hometown crowd. The actual baseball game was pretty boring to start with lackadaisical play by both teams allowing some early undeserved baserunners, but nothing came of it. Both veteran pitchers cruised along pretty well through their first few innings with very little notable action aside from Billy Hamilton blazing around the base paths as he tends to do. There was a close call in the third inning at second base as the speedster tried to stretch his single to a double against Jose Bautista and looked to be caught, but was called safe.
Mark Buehrle went four trouble-free innings allowing three hits with one strikeout and no walks. Matt Boyd, who was drafted by both the Reds and Blue Jays in consecutive years, relieved his fellow southpaw to start the fourth inning and showed a fastball, curveball, and changeup all with mediocre command, but some nice arm-side movement on his changeup. The Oregon State alum struck out Brandon Phillips before walking Zack Cozart and Marquez Smith getting out of the jam eventually by retiring center fielder Billy Hamilton on a lazy fly ball.
Liam Hendriks entered the game for the sixth under the microscope because one appearance in Montreal should definitely decide if he makes the team or not. The Australian struck out two batters and got a double play (not a typo). It seems like a solid bet that the righty will be with the team when they open the season in New York on Monday regardless of how he looked this evening.
Aroldis Chapman entered for the bottom half and was subsequently welcomed to the game by Kevin Pillar who took him way, way back to the left field wall for a long fly out. That was as exciting as it got.
After a clean seventh by Todd Redmond, Aaron Loup made it interesting in the eighth for all the wrong reasons. After allowing a walk and a single, the lefty threw a wild pitch to Dioner Navarro that advanced the runners to second and third. Skip Schumaker then hit a playable ball right by Munenori Kawasaki at third base rolling to Dwight Smith in left field who made a nice throw home that was completely mishandled by Navarro allowing a second run to score. A strikeout ended the half inning limiting the damage to just the pair of earned runs.
Brett Cecil looked sharp in the top of the ninth flashing his nasty spike curveball and solid fastball command. The Blue Jays couldn't muster much in the bottom half after a Ryan Goins single, going down fairly quietly to end the game.
The Jays will get another crack at it tomorrow when the two teams renew acquaintances in Montreal with a first pitch set for 1:07 pm. The pitching matchup will feature Daniel Norris facing off against former Blue Jays prospect Anthony Desclafani who went to the Marlins in the Reyes/Buehrle trade before being flipped to Cincinnati this offseason for Mat Latos. After that, the team will have Sunday off before opening the season in New York on Monday!