Expos fans invade Toronto

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The Tampa Bay Rays went to Toronto this past weekend. So too did a whole lot of Expos fans, remembering the past and hoping for the future:

A crew of Montreal Expos fans, willing to do just about anything to get their team back, has driven to Toronto to watch the Blue Jays. Organizers say about 1,000 Expos supporters, hoping to attract the attention of baseball’s movers and shakers, packed into the outfield bleachers at the Rogers Centre on Saturday for the Blue Jays game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The trip was organized in part by Matthew Ross of Expos Nation, who is committed to getting a team back in Montreal. He’s not alone in that desire. The Prime Minister is on board too:

 

Montreal once supported the Expos quite well compared to many other teams in the league. And at 3.9 million or so, it’s the 15th largest urban agglomeration in North America and would be the 13th largest in Major League Baseball if it re-entered the league. It’d be the 9th largest single-team urban center.

Obviously it has other cultural, historical, commercial and media challenges than a lot of current baseball markets. And it strikes me that Major League Baseball would be loathe to go back to Montreal for a number of reasons any time soon (not to mention Montreal’s presumed lack of desire to give MLB the time of day after what MLB did to it a decade ago). But it does seem like, in the long term, Montreal makes all kinds of sense for baseball.

Maybe it will happen in 20 years. I hope it happens in my lifetime.

Brewers on the brink of their first pennant in 36 years

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A series that had swung back and forth twice already swung back in Milwaukee’s favor last night with a convincing win. That it was convincing — it was not at all close after the second inning — is a key factor heading into today, as Craig Counsell has his bullpen set up nicely to shorten the game if his Brewers can get an early lead.

Josh Hader — who, if you are unaware, has not allowed a run and has struck out 12 batters in seven innings of postseason work — did not pitch yesterday or in Game 5. As such, he’s had three full days off. Given that this is a win or go home day and, if they win, he’s guaranteed two more days off before the World Series, he’s good for two innings and could very well go for three. That’s not what you want if you’re the Dodgers.

But it gets worse. Jeremy Jeffress pitched last night but it was only one pretty easy inning, so he could go two if he has to. Corey Knebel pitched an inning and two-thirds but he could probably give Counsell an inning of work if need be. Joakim Soria didn’t pitch at all yesterday. Between those guys and the less important relievers, all of whom save Brandon Woodruff are all pretty fresh, the Dodgers aren’t going to have any easy marks.

But the thing is: Counsell may not need to go that deep given that Jhoulys Chacin, their best starter of the postseason, gets the start. So, yes, in light of that, you have to like the Brewers’ chances tonight, and that’s before you realize that the home crowd is going to be louder than hell.

Not that the Dodgers are going to roll over — it’ll be all hands on deck for them with every pitcher except for Hyun-Jim Ryu available, you figure — but if they’re going to repeat as NL champs, they’re going to have to earn it either by bloodying Chacin’s nose early and neutralizing the threat of facing Hader and company with a lead, or by marching through the teeth of the Brewers bullpen and coming out alive on the other side.
NLCS Game 6

Dodgers vs. Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers:  Walker Buehler vs. Jhoulys Chacin
Breakdown:

The most important part of this breakdown — the stuff about the Brewers’ pen — has already been said and, I presume anyway, the starters here will have the shortest of leashes. Chacin’s will be longer, as he has not allowed a run over 10 and a third innings in his first two postseason starts, making him the Brewers’ defacto ace. Every inning he goes tonight makes things much, much harder for the Dodgers once he’s gone as it means Milwaukee will be able to rely more and more on Hader and Jeffress, so the Dodgers had best get to him early.

Buehler has come up weak so far this postseason, having allowed nine runs in 12 innings, including surrendering four runs on six hits over seven innings in Milwaukee’s Game 3 victory. Still, it’s not hard to remember how dominating he was in the second half of the season. If that Buehler shows up and can keep things close, we’ll have a ballgame. If L.A. finds itself in an early hole once again, theirs will be the tallest of orders.