Blue Jays fall to Red Sox in Montreal
Pillar, Saunders go deep for Toronto
It was a big night for Russell Martin even if his Toronto Blue Jays lost to the Boston Red Sox.
An energetic crowd of 52,682 saw the Red Sox post a 4-2 pre-season win over Toronto on a two-out, two run double in the top of the 10th inning from outfielder Ryan LaMarre.
But the ovations for Martin, who was born in Toronto but grew up in Montreal, and a pre-game tribute to some of his old Montreal Expos heroes, had the Blue Jays catcher beaming after the game.
"It's still exhibition, but when you play in front of a crowd like this it gets your juices flowing," said Martin. "Our minds are still getting ready for Tampa on opening day [Sunday].
"Those are the games that count. But you still want to compete and to play to win. It gets your mojo going and it's a perfect way to get ready for the season."
Kevin Pillar and Canadian outfielder Michael Saunders hit solo home runs off Red Sox starter Steven Wright for a 2-0 lead after two innings, but Boston tied it in the fifth.
It is the third year in a row that the Blue Jays have ended training camp with a pair of games at Olympic Stadium, where near sell-out crowds turn out for a taste of major league ball they have missed since the Montreal Expos left and became the Washington Nationals after the 2004 season.
A pre-game tribute was paid to former Expos Tim Raines, Pedro Martinez, Ellis Valentine, Marquis Grissom, Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Vidro, who Martin grew up watching.
"It was awesome, especially Rock [Raines],' said Martin. "You see in his eyes how emotional he got.
"It shows how much baseball is missed in Montreal."
Pre-season games can go no longer than 10 innings under major league rules and this one looked like it might end in a tie until LaMarre's shot off the wall in right-centre field scored Travis Shaw and Chris Young, who had each walked after reliever Pat McCoy got the first two hitters to ground out.
"For a guy who has been in triple-A, who's had some opportunities at the major league level, that's a good moment to come through with a key base hit," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "l'm sure it's a night he'll remember."
The teams play a second exhibition game Saturday afternoon in Montreal to end the pre-season for both clubs. Martin with be designated hitter in that game to save his knees for the regular season opener.
Farrell was impressed with Wright, who went five innings, surrendering seven hits and two earned runs but striking out eight.
"His knuckleball was really working in a dome, which is what we've seen," said Farrell. "It's got extra action to it.
"He threw a number of curveballs, which he's been working on. A couple of home runs, but a good outing for Steven."
Pillar got the crowd going when he led off the first by taking a 2-1 pitch over the left field wall.
Victoria native Saunders led off the second with a line drive homer to centre field.
"It was a 3-1 heater, but it felt good," said Saunders.