Melky's late blast gets Blue Jays past Mets
Outfielder breaks tie with two-run homer in eighth; Morrow strong for 5 2/3 innings
MONTREAL -- Daisuke Matsuzaka delivered a standout performance in Canada, but it didn't help him win a job in the Mets' starting rotation.
Matsuzaka struck out eight Blue Jays over five shutout innings Saturday, despite a 2-0 Mets loss in front of 50,229 fans at Olympic Stadium. After the game, the Mets reassigned Matsuzaka to Triple-A Las Vegas and named Jenrry Mejia their fifth starter.
This weekend's exhibitions between the Mets and Jays brought a total of 96,350 fans to Montreal for the first professional baseball games here in nearly a decade.
Twice, those fans left happy. Melky Cabrera sent Saturday's crowd into a frenzy when he hit a tiebreaking two-run homer off Adam Kolarek in the eighth, giving the Jays wins in both exhibition games.
Though Matsuzaka appeared to have done enough Saturday to win the Mets' fifth-starter job outright, lowering his spring ERA to 3.04, the competition was more complicated than a typical roster battle. Jon Niese's elbow injury recently forced the Mets to make contingency plans -- Mejia making the team instead of Matsuzaka in order to increase roster flexibility.
Mejia is battling both a bunion on his right foot and a right forearm bruise. The Mets need Mejia to pitch their fourth game of the season on April 4, then must hope Niese is healthy enough to start on April 6.
Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow was just as unhittable as Matsuzaka in his final spring tuneup, also striking out eight over 5 2/3 shutout innings. The right-hander walked two and allowed two hits.
"It was a lot of fun," Morrow said. "Both games were really exciting, the crowd was into it the whole time. They did a really good job of putting on these games."
The best chance for either team to score early came in the fourth, when the Jays put runners on first and third with one out. But Matsuzaka coaxed a popout from Brett Lawrie and struck out Colby Rasmus to end the threat.
Cabrera's go-ahead homer came with a man on third base and two outs in the eighth.
Up next: R.A. Dickey will make his second consecutive Opening Day start when the Blue Jays begin their season against the Rays in a 4:10 p.m. ET game Monday at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay will counter with left-hander David Price.