MONTREAL â€” A tie was not the hoped-for result but Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin wasn’t disappointed.
A crowd of 43,180 at Olympic Stadium, who saved their loudest cheers for local favourite Martin, watched the Blue Jays play to a nine-inning 1-1 draw with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
It was not the thrilling end many may have hoped for, but that’s how it works in pre-season baseball. The teams had used up their pitchers and pinch-hitters and there was no use pursuing it further in a game that doesn’t count in the standings.
“I don’t know if it’s disappointing,” said Martin. “You prefer to win the game, but tying is better than losing.
“It can only happen in spring training, but it’s not the first time we’ve gone through it. It’s a bit tougher when you’re playing in front of a lot more fans but, at the end of the day, we’re still getting ready for the season. The guys played with intensity and I hope the people enjoyed it. Maybe people won’t go home happy because we didn’t win but they won’t go home sad because we lost.”
The two teams meet again on Saturday afternoon, which marks the end of the pre-season for both clubs.
The Pirates outhit the Blue Jays 9-5.
The Blue Jays got on the board in the third as Darwin Barney led off with a triple off starter Jameson Taillon and scored on Kevin Pillar’s groundout.
The Pirates tied it in the fifth off Joe Biagini when Jordy Mercer’s two-out single was followed by a triple off the right field wall by Adam Frazier, who was thrown out trying to stretch it into an inside the park home run. Frazier has reached base in 13 of his last 14 games.
Neither side mustered much of a threat from then on.
Jays starter Marcus Stroman allowed five hits and no runs in four innings, but he had a nervy third when Josh Harrison singled but then was caught stealing. Mercer and Frazier followed with singles but Starling Marte flied out to end the threat.
Stroman is coming off an MVP performance for the United States at the World Baseball Classic and was happy with his outing.
And he liked the pro-Blue Jays atmosphere at Olympic Stadium.
“It’s more of a feeling like the WBC where I’m coming from,” said Stroman. “I love pitching in front of huge crowds.
“I feel like I’m able to feed off those games. The more people the better. I hope there’s 50,000 in the Rogers Centre every game I pitch this year.”
Aaron Loup, who is battling for a bullpen job, pitched the scoreless sixth and had two strikeouts, while Ryan Tepera got two hitters out in the seventh and was replaced by J.P. Howell.
It is a fourth straight year the Blue Jays have ended their pre-season with a pair of exhibition games at the Big O. They went 3-3 in previous two-game sets against the New York Mets, Cincinnati and Boston.
The announced crowd was down from the nearly 50,000 that turned up in previous years and they were somewhat less animated, except when Martin batted. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press