Everybody remembers the 1994 Montreal Expos season, but the way it ended, 20 years ago today was barely more than a whimper.
Editor’s Note: We will be looking back at the 1994 season that ended 20 years ago with a series of stories throughout the week.
It was 9:58 on Thursday evening at Three Rivers Stadium. Zane Smith forced Rondell White into a soft ground out to shortstop Jay Bell and just like that – even though we didn’t know it at the time – the season was over.
The loss was only the Expos second in the entire month of August (11 games, 9-2 record) and only their third in a 20-3 run dating back to July 18.
It might have even been symbolic that it all happened this way. Smith, of course, was a former Expo. He shut down the team in this, their last game. It could have been a trade, four years earlier, that helped create the team that became the best team in baseball.
It was a player to be named later in that trade with Pittsburgh that turned out to be the star. It was Moises Alou, who started in right field that day for the Expos.
Alou hit into a double play the batter before White ended the game. The ninth inning started with a Sean Berry single to right field.
For the Expos, Butch Henry got the start. He pitched brilliantly as he did all season. Five innings, six hits, allowing only two runs. He threw only 60 pitches. He finished the season with a 2.43 ERA and an 8-3 record despite taking the loss.
Tim Scott had a rough outing. He allowed five hits and two runs in only 0.2 innings. Even after that, his ERA climbed only to 2.70.
Smith only allowed five hits. No player got more than one. Alou had the only extra base hit. Wil Cordero had a stolen base.
Future manager Lloyd McClendon started at first base and batted clean up for the Pirates. Jim Leyland was their manager. McClendon now manages the Seattle Mariners after having the head job in Pittsburgh before returning to work with Leyland in Detroit with the Tigers.
With the Expos loss, coupled with an Atlanta Braves win, their lead in the National League East dropped to six games. Their record fell to 74-40 where it would stay forever.
Twenty years ago today, there was little indication that it would be the last hurrah for the best team the franchise ever had. Only a veteran pitcher shutting down a team of upstarts.