Starting Tuesday, the Nationals will kick off their four-game season series against the Toronto Blue Jays when they fly to Dunedin, Florida, for a quick two-game set. Due to Canada’s strict COVID-19 restrictions, the Nats will play at the Blue Jays Spring Training home instead of Toronto. The two teams will finish the season series in August when Toronto visits Washington for a pair of games in D.C.
After winning a three-game, home series with the Cardinals last week, The Nationals offense struggled against the first-place New York Mets this past weekend. The Nats managed a victory on Saturday but were shut out in the other two games to fall into last place in the NL East with an 8-11 record.
The Blue Jays, on the other hand, secured a series victory against the Tampa Bay Rays with a 1-0 win in the rubber match on Sunday. Toronto has won three of its last four games to climb into third place in the AL East.
Here are the potential pitching matchups for the two-game series:
Tuesday, April 27, RHP Max Scherzer (1-1, 1.80 ERA, 33 strikeouts) v. Trent Thornton First Pitch (0-0, 1.86 ERA) 7:07 pm EDT
The Washington Nationals ace has worked his way up the all-time strikeout leaderboard, most recently passing Mike Mussina for 21st after striking out nine batters v. St. Louis on Wednesday. In 10 career starts against the Blue Jays, Scherzer is 4-2 with a 2.00 ERA.
Trent Thornton will open against the Washington Nationals and try to give the Blue Jays multiple innings before handing the game off to the bullpen. In his last appearance, Thornton tossed two scoreless innings against a strong Red Sox lineup.
Wednesday, April 28, Erick Fedde (1-2, 5.51 ERA) v. Steven Matz (4-0, 2.31 ERA) 7:07 pm EDT
In-game two, the Washington Nationals will send Erick Fedde to the mound. Fedde remains in the starting rotation as both Stephen Strasburg and Jon Lester remain on the IL. Fedde, who has posted a 3.07 ERA with 17 strikeouts in his past three games, will be making his second career start against Toronto. Against the Blue Jays last year, Fedde only went 3 1/3 innings and gave up a run in the first on a bloop, RBI single, then surrendered a one-out home run in the fourth. In that game, Fedde gave up a total of six hits, two earned runs and issued two walks on 57 pitches.
The Toronto Blue Jays will counter with Steven Matz to face the familiar Washington Nationals. This past offseason, Matz was traded from the Mets to the Blue Jays and has emerged as a reliable #2 in their pitching rotation. Matz became MLB’s first starter to four wins in 2021 with a victory against Tampa Bay on April 23rd and has yet to lose this season. He has a 2.31 ERA with a total of 25 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched.
Matz loves to throw his sinker and has utilized it more than 50% of the time until this season. So far in 2021, 48% of his pitches have been sinkers and they have been extremely effective against opposing hitters. Opponents are only hitting .128 against his sinker and only two of those have been extra-base hits. Most of his strikeouts have also come off his sinker.
Get ready for the series by listening to our jammed packed In the Clubhouse with the Nats Report Series Preview episode.
Washington Nationals Series Notes:
- At the bottom looking up: The Nationals are currently 8-11 and in last place in the NL East. However, they are still only two games out of first in a very crowded division.
- Batting Struggles Continue: Sunday’s loss to the New York Mets at Citi Field was the Nationals’ fifth shutout loss already in 2021, which is the most in Major League Baseball. Additionally, Sunday was the seventh time the Nationals have been held to zero or one run, which is also the most in the Majors.
- The New Kids in Town: As many have mentioned, the Nationals’ success is linked to how both Kyle Schwarber and Josh Bell perform at the plate, and so far, it is not great. After missing the first six games of the season due to being in quarantine, both have struggled at the plate. Bell is currently batting .119 with a .446 OPS and 15 strikeouts in 42-at bats. Additionally, Schwarber is batting .192 with a .530 OPS and 18 strikeouts in 52 at-bats.
- Power Outage: Washington batters have not hit a homer in four straight games. Josh Bell hit their last home run last Tuesday against the Cardinals.
- Injury Bug: Trea Turner left Sunday’s loss vs. the Mets after getting hit by a pitch on his arm. We’ll have to wait and see if Turner misses any time as a result.
Toronto Blue Jays Series Notes:
- The Strength of the Bullpen: The Toronto Blue Jays bullpen has the fourth-lowest ERA in the Majors at 3.04 and has held opponents to a .225 average. The bullpen also has the seventh-lowest hard-hit percentage (37.2%) and the second-lowest average exit velocity.
- Batting Troubles: It isn’t just the Washington Nationals lineup that are having hitting issues. The Blue Jays team batting average is .225 with a slugging percentage of just .363 and an OPS of .660. The team, as a total, has 186 strikeouts and 156 hits with 24 home runs and 77 RBI.
Edited by: Jonathan Mailloux