As baseball fans in Montreal prepare to see Marcus Stroman start against Jameson Taillon tonight at Olympic Stadium as the Toronto Blue Jays take on the Pittsburgh Pirates, they weren’t always so lucky.
Playing so close to Opening Day, usually the pitchers are at the back of the rotation, and not all that interesting. However, there have been a few notable pitching matchups at Olympic Stadium over the last four years. Here they are, ranked.
1. 2017: Marcus Stroman vs Jameson Taillon (PIT)
It hasn’t even happened yet, but this is clearly the best matchup on paper. These are two potential aces and it isn’t out of the question that both of these pitchers could be their team’s best starter by the end of the season. Stroman actually has pitched in Montreal before (more on that later), but it will be his first start.
For Taillon, he was a second overall pick in 2010 right after some guy named Bryce Harper and right before Manny Machado. He was born in Florida but both of his parents are Canadian. He represented Canada at the 2013 World Baseball Classic and allowed two runs over four innings against the United States.
2. 2016: J.A. Happ vs Steven Wright (BOS)
At the time, it looked like two veteran pitchers at the back of their rotation but both Happ and Wright had career years in 2016. Happ won 20 games, and Wright went 13-6 with a 3.33 ERA.
3. 2014: Brandon Morrow vs Daisuke Matsuzaka (NYM)
If we’re ranking #2 based on what happened after the fact, we can rank #3 based on what happened before.
Morrow had a really good 2012 season, and the first-round pick was trying to bounce back from an injury-shortened 2013 year. He never made it all the way back, but he did put up some pretty good numbers over the last two years with the San Diego Padres. He was a Spring Training invite with the Dodgers this year and was re-assigned to minor league camp.
Matsuzaka was battling for the Mets final rotation spot, and ended up pitching 34 games in 2014 but started only nine of them. It was his final Major League season. He was dominant in his 2008 season, his second in the Majors and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting that year.
Notable in this game, Aaron Sanchez pitched two innings and earned the win in the game just months before making his Major League debut.
4. 2015: Daniel Norris vs Anthony DeSclafani (CIN)
This was one of those intriguing matchups. Both of these players were getting ready to break camp with their teams and were intriguing prospects.
Norris, as we all know, was traded later that season in the David Price trade. DeSclafani has won 18 games over the last two seasons but will start this season on the disabled list.
DeSclafani was a former Jays prospect and was traded to the Marlins in the Jose Reyes/Mark Buehrle trade.
The bullpen for the Blue Jays was very interesting as Miguel Castro, Roberto Osuna, and Marco Estrada all came into the game for the Blue Jays. It’s not every day you get to see two pitchers traded for an ace, an Opening Day starter and a playoff closer in one game.
5. 2014: Mark Buehrle vs Jenrry Mejia (NYM)
This was the first of two Buehrle starts in Montreal. He also started in 2015. As for Mejia, he was in that battle for the final rotation spot with Matsuzaka. He has since been suspended for life for performance enhancing drugs and it’s not every day you can say you watched someone who was banned for life.
Mejia could apply for reinstatement but has to sit out at least two years.
I mentioned Stroman had pitched in Montreal before, and he came in relief in this game and pitched 1.2 innings.
6. 2017: Francisco Liriano vs Chad Kuhl (PIT)
This has the potential to be the Happ-Wright game of this year. I am a fan of Liriano and think he is a prime candidate to regain his form now that there is less pressure on him to do so from the back of the rotation.
Kuhl is 23 years old and went 5-4 last year in 14 starts. We also don’t know what kind of pitcher he will end up being. This is one that could rise up the rankings eventually.
7. 2015: Mark Buehrle vs Jason Marquis (CIN)
This game ended up being 2-0 and a well pitched game. It just wasn’t the most intriguing of matchups but, hey, at least it wasn’t a 10-9 four-hour Spring Training game.
8. 2016: Scott Copeland vs Sean O’Sullivan (BOS)
There are a few reasons for this pitching matchup. The Blue Jays had to go back to open their season the next day in Tampa and neither team wanted to give a divisional opponent a free look at a Major League starter.