Scherzer loses 2nd start in row, Blue Jays blank Nats 2-0

Scherzer loses 2nd start in row, Blue Jays blank Nats 2-0

Max Scherzer lost his second straight start for the first time since 2015 when Marco Estrada pitched 6 2-3 shutout innings and Devon Travis homered Saturday for the Toronto Blue Jays in a 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals.

Scherzer (10-3) gave up four hits, including the two-run homer by Travis, in six innings. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner struck out 10, increasing his major league-leading total to 152.

The right-hander, who lost to San Francisco in his previous outing, last lost two straight starts in a three-game skid in August 2015. Travis homered for the second game in a row when he connected in the fifth, right after Scherzer hit Luke Maile with a pitch.

Estrada (4-6) allowed three hits, one a bunt single, to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season. Toronto has won six straight at home after losing 10 of its previous 11 at Rogers Centre.

Trea Turner hit a two-out double in the sixth, but Estrada struck out Bryce Harper looking. An exasperated Harper was caught looking again to end the eighth, stranding a runner at first. Harper went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, dropping his average to .221.

Estrada left after Michael A. Taylor’s two-out single put runners at first and second in the seventh. Danny Barnes came on and needed two pitches to retire Wilmer Difo on a groundout.

Barnes and Aaron Loup each got two outs and former Nationals closer Tyler Clippard finished the three-hitter for his third save in six opportunities.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: 1B Matt Adams was out of the lineup one day after taking a pitch off his left hand while attempting to bunt. X-rays Friday were inconclusive because of swelling, so Adams will have another X-ray when the Nationals return home Monday. With Adams unavailable, Daniel Murphy started at first, his first defensive action since returning from knee surgery Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (3-7, 3.63) faces Blue Jays RHP Sam Gaviglio (2-2, 3.66) in Sunday’s series finale. Roark has won just once in his past seven starts. Gavoglio allowed a season-worst five earned runs in Monday’s loss at Tampa Bay, his second straight losing decision.

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Estrada outpitches Scherzer as Jays down Nats, 2-0

Estrada outpitches Scherzer as Jays down Nats, 2-0

Devon Travis hit a two-run home run, Marco Estrada pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings and the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the visiting Washington Nationals 2-0 on Saturday.

It was the second straight win for the Blue Jays, who will try for a sweep of the three-game interleague series on Sunday afternoon. The Blue Jays have won six in a row at home after going 1-10 before that at Rogers Centre.

Estrada (4-6), a Nationals sixth-round draft choice in 2005, allowed three hits and two walks with four strikeouts in winning his second straight decision after going winless in eight starts.

Tyler Clippard, a former National, pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn his third save of the season.

Nationals starter Max Scherzer (10-3) allowed two runs on four hits and one walk in six innings. The right-hander struck out 10, the 10th time this season that he has reached double digits in strikeouts.

The Blue Jays took a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning. Luke Maile was hit by a pitch with one out, and Travis followed with his fourth homer of the season on an 0-1 slider. It was the second two-run homer of the series for the Blue Jays second baseman.

Estrada retired 12 batters in a row after Michael A. Taylor‘s bunt single with two out in the second inning. That spell ended when Trea Turner doubled into the left-center gap with two out in the sixth. Estrada responded by striking out Bryce Harper.

Estrada allowed his second walk of the game and the second to Anthony Rendon to lead off the seventh. The next two batters flied out to center before Taylor singled to center. Danny Barnes replaced Estrada and finished the inning on a groundout to first by Wilmer Difo.

Washington’s Wander Suero pitched a perfect seventh and eighth with three strikeouts.

Barnes retired one batter in the eighth before being replaced by left-hander Aaron Loup, who walked Turner with two out before retiring Harper on a called third strike.

–Field Level Media

Game #69 Preview: Gonzalez vs Sanchez

Game #69 Preview: Gonzalez vs Sanchez

The Jays happily return home today in order to celebrate Kate’s birthday, but also to welcome the Nationals into town. Today’s game gets underway at 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Aaron Sanchez gets the ball, looking to build off back to back solid starts. Over his last 2 starts, Sanchez has pitched 12.1 innings, striking out 12 while only surrendering 8 hits, with 1 being a home run. However, his biggest struggle of 2018 was still very present, as he walked 7 over those 12 innings, and has walked 5.20 batters per 9 innings thus far this year, 12.9% of all batters faced. That rate is bit better against righties, at 8.5%, but that just goes to show his other major weakness this year – lefties are hitting .306/.436/.500.

Nationals’ Starter

Left hander Gio Gonzalez starts for the Nationals. Through his first 13 games, the 32 year old Gonzalez is 6-2 with a 2.65 ERA. He is striking out batters at just over a batter per inning (9.04 per 9 innings), while doing an excellent job of preventing home runs (0.60 per 9 innings). His walk rate (3.86 per 9 innings) is the highest it has been since he made the move to Washington 7 seasons ago. But putting all of that together, he still has a 3.23 FIP, the best it has been since he entered his 30s and the 17th best in baseball among qualified starters.

His last time out, things didn’t go so well. He allowed 4 runs on 6 hits, 4 walks and only 3 strikeouts over 3.1 innings against the Giants. It was his worst start of the season under many different measures – shortest start, most runs, tied for the most walks, tied for the fewest strikeouts, and the only start this year where he walked more than he struck out.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

It appears that Josh Donaldson is going to be activated for this game. I hope that this does not prove to be an erroneous move, as a healthy Josh Donaldson is a lot more valuable in a trade than one playing an extra week or two at 70% of his ability.

With Donaldson back, I think we’ll be seeing less of Yangervis Solarte. Devon Travis has hit well enough since coming back up at second base (93 wRC+) to reclaim his full time role over Solarte, who has been struggling with the bat recently (82 wRC+ over the arbitrary ‘last 30 days’). Solarte will still get some time filling in occasionally at 3B, SS and 2B to probably play >60% of the time going forward though.

Randal Grichuk has been great since coming back, and has quickly earned back his full time gig in right field. Which means that Granderson is essentially in a platoon with Morales at DH. I have a feeling that Granderson might be one of the first chips to go in a trade, as much as I hate to say it (especially on Kate’s birthday).

Nationals’ Lineup

Rookie sensation Juan Soto has been hitting in the bottom half of the order, but could be inching his way up soon. Through his first 20 games, the 19 year old is hitting .344/.447/.641 with 5 home runs. Must be nice to have a 19 year that can hit playing in the Majors.

The Nationals have recently gotten lefties Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy back from the DL. Murphy has played 2 games at DH, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him there again today while switch hitting Wilmer Difo continues to draw the starts at 2B.

The Nationals figure to start at least 6 lefty bats against Sanchez in this one. Speedster Trea Turner and third baseman Anthony Rendon, plus whoever is catching (I think Pedro Severino gets most of the starts) are likely the only righties that will be in there.

Yesterday’s Heroes

David Peralta of the Diamondbacks gets the Monster Bat award. He went 2-3 with a pair of homers, while also getting plunked, as his Diamondbacks doubled up the Mets 6-3.

Reliever Ty Blach is our WPA King. He threw 83 pitches from the 10th inning to 2 outs in the 16th, 6.2 shutout innings. That was worth a .799 WPA, and he also got the win as the Giants scored 3 in the top of the 16th to win 6-3 over the Marlins.

Anibal Sanchez narrowly edges out Blach for Pitcher of the Day. Over 7 shutout innings, Sanchez allowed just 4 hits, walking none and striking out 6 as his Braves beat the Padres 4-2.

Milestone Watch

Aaron Loup is now just 2 appearances back of Jim Clancy for 7th in franchise history.

Josh Donaldson continues his pursuit of Shawn Green on the franchise home run leaderboard. To recap, Donaldson, who hasn’t hit a home run since the double header in Cleveland, has 116 home runs as a Blue Jays. Green sits 13th all time at 119.

Find the Link

Find the link between Gonzalez and the outfielder we were forever tied to in trade and FA rumours, until he finally signed with the Mets this past winter.

And don’t forget to wish Kate a Happy Birthday!

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Struggles at the plate dragging on Jays

Struggles at the plate dragging on Jays

It was never really going to be a fair fight, but the more the Blue Jays struggle at the plate this season, the more it is clear how ill-equipped they are to compete in the slugger-happy American League East.

It’s been evident at various points this season and the team is struggling in multiple areas right now. But the lack of production at the plate is high on the list.

With third baseman Josh Donaldson still hurt, the designated hitter position a dead zone and Kevin Pillar significantly cooled from his sizzling early start — just to name three — the offence is non-existent on too many nights.

Take away the outlier of the four-game series sweep against the Orioles last week at the Rogers Centre and the lack of production is glaring.
In the five most recent games not including the O’s, the Jays have scored just seven runs and have been shut out twice and held to one run on another occasion.

“It’s the American League East, man. You’ve got to score runs if you want to win games,” said 2017 all star first baseman Justin Smoak, one of the team’s scuffling, frustrated hitters. “That’s the name of the game here.
“I feel like we’re not getting it done, honestly. We’re hitting into a lot of double plays and making quick, easy innings.”

While batting average isn’t the only measure of offence given the preponderance of walks in today’s game, it is still an indicator of trouble. And the Jays team average of .232 is ranked 13th in the AL with only Texas and Baltimore lower.

The Jays run differential now sits at minus-27, glaring in comparison with the Red Sox (plus 103) and Yankees (plus 91.)

While those two teams continue to go bombs away, the Jays bats are getting quieter and quieter, the most recent example being Wednesday’s 1-0 walkoff loss to the Rays in which Toronto starter J.A. Happ pitched a one-hitter over five shutout innings.

In the just completed three-game brooming at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Jays scored four, one and zero runs, including leaving seven runners in scoring position on Wednesday.

In each of the last two games the Jays didn’t manage an extra-base hit the first time they’ve gone consecutive games without one since 2011.
With a day off to ponder those woes it isn’t about to get any easier with a very good Washington Nationals team coming into the Rogers Centre for three. First up is left hander Gio Gonzalez who will take his 6-2 record and 2.65 ERA against a team that has dropped its past 11 starts against lefties. And on Saturday right-hander Max Scherzer (10-2, 2.00) gets the ball.
Smoak knows he’s one of the players that has to pick it up as well. With just one hit in his past 25 at bats and only nine homers after his breakthrough campaign of 38, he’s symptomatic of the Jays’ hitting woes.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” said Smoak.  “We just have to keep going out and keep showing up and try to get better.”

TOP PICK READY
As a high school player, Jordan Groshans is well aware that the journey to big-league baseball is just starting.

That said, the 18-year-old high schooler from Texas feels confidence will be a key to his development with the Jays. Toronto’s first-round pick (12th overall) in this month’s draft signed with the team this week and has already reported to Dunedin where he will play in the Gulf Coast League the rest of the summer.

“I’m really excited to be a Blue Jay and back out on the field,” Groshans said during a conference call on Thursday. “I’m here to make sure I’m getting 10 times better every day.

“I’m a positive kid. I believe that to be successful in baseball and you want to make it to the next level you have to be confident and you have to work hard.”

Though drafted as a shortstop, Groshans said he’s comfortable moving around the infield if the situation arises. And in his short time in Dunedin, he says he’s already had time to talk to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is recovering from surgery and Donaldson, who visited the team’s facility earlier in the week.

“I talked to them about baseball stuff, whether it’s fielding ground balls or mechanics of my swing,” Groshans said. “They’ve played a big part so far.”

’STRO SHOW
Marcus Stroman’s recovery from shoulder fatigue took a major step forward on Wednesday in his first official outing since being placed on the disabled list back on May 11th.

Stroman was strong in his 4.1 innings of work for the Dunedin Blue Jays facing the minimum in the first two innings and not allowing a hit until the Charlotte Stone Crabs’ Jesus Sanchez hit a two-run homer in the fifth.
Stroman, who is expected to have at least one more rehab start in Dunedin before rejoining the Jays, possibly as early as next week.

MAKE IT RAIN
As he continues to recover from his latest injury — this time a strain of his left calf — Donaldson is attempting to keep frustration out of the equation.

“I’m ready to go and ready to get going,” said Donaldson, who, with an expiring $23 million US contract has even more incentive to return and return to form. “I know I can help this team but I can’t think about (rushing back). I’ve got to do what I can to get better and feel better.”
Thursday’s off day was scheduled to be an important one for Donaldson as he planned to run the bases at the Rogers Centre. He came out of that fine, the Jays were pondering sending him to Buffalo for a game or two this weekend to continue his rehab.”

Rays return to using relievers as starters vs. Blue Jays

Rays return to using relievers as starters vs. Blue Jays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays haven’t had much to be genuinely excited about in an up-and-down first third of the season, but a youth movement could do that with more games like Monday’s 8-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

For the first time in the major leagues, two of the franchise’s top prospects, shortstop Willy Adames and first baseman Jake Bauers, played together. Each drove in two runs to open a three-game series against Toronto.

“Our two young guys came in, really impacted us in a big way and helped us win a game,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Bauers got his first home run in his first game in the majors, and Adames had two RBIs in his return to Tampa Bay after a three-game cameo last month.

“I told him, ‘Were you waiting for me to get here to hit your first homer?’ and he said, ‘Yes, buddy,'” Adames said.

The Rays (30-35) inched ahead of the Blue Jays (30-36) in the American League East standings, though they’ll be back to a familiar adversity Tuesday, going without a traditional starter.

Tampa Bay is pushing through a rash of injuries with its starting pitching, with news Monday that top starter Chris Archer had a setback and is now on hold after once having hopes of returning to the rotation Sunday.

On Tuesday, that means Ryne Stanek will be the Rays’ “opener” — he was originally scheduled to do so Monday but was pressed into duty in the ninth inning Sunday, pushing back his scheduled start. Stanek (1-1, 3.14 ERA) has pitched well in June, with four appearances and a 0.00 ERA, allowing only two hits in 4 2/3 innings while striking out seven.

He’ll likely pitch no more than two innings, setting up a bullpen day after three Rays relievers each pitched a scoreless inning to seal Monday’s win.

Toronto has stuck with traditional starters, even when they haven’t fared well, like Jaime Garcia, who pitched for three teams last season and is on his fourth in less than a year with the Jays. Garcia is 2-4 with a 5.57 ERA, though his last outing was a solid one, holding the Baltimore Orioles to one run and four hits in six innings.

Garcia, who spent most of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, has only faced the Rays once, holding them to one run in 4 2/3 innings last year for a 1.93 ERA.

The Blue Jays, who had top prospect Vlad Guerrero Jr. at Tropicana Field as a guest as he works through an injury, had come to St. Petersburg fresh off a four-game sweep of the Orioles, but they let an early lead slip away Monday.

“It was the first time in a while I can remember us scoring a bunch of runs early here,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “Every time we did, they came back and answered and took the lead, and they broke it open late.”

Pillar pushing his outfield mate Hernandez to get better every day

Pillar pushing his outfield mate Hernandez to get better every day

In Boston at the end of May, Red Sox infielder Mitch Moreland hit a shot to right that should have been caught by Toronto right fielder Teoscar Hernandez.

Hernandez sluggishly took a poor route to the ball and it sailed past him to the wall, turning into an RBI double instead of the second out.
There were also a couple of times this month when Hernandez — who has been a revelation at the plate for the Blue Jays since arriving in Toronto last September — let seemingly catchable fly balls bounce in front of him.

But since that late May game in Boston, Jays manager John Gibbons has put the rookie outfielder in left field for straight eight games and Hernandez has really come into his own defensively, making some outstanding catches, charging hard for balls and hustling to prevent hits down the line from turning into doubles. Hernandez clearly looks more comfortable in left, but his improved play — and hustle — also has something to do with his centre fielder, Kevin Pillar. After one particularly lackluster play, Pillar took Hernandez aside and laid it on the line to the rookie.

“Teoscar of late is showing that he can be an elite defender when he puts his mind to it,” said Pillar. “I talked to him about just how elite he is offensively, how he could be a special player in this game. But he has to do it every single day defensively and I think he’s taken that challenge and he’s gone out there and not only made plays with his arm but he’s made plays with his legs too. And I remind him that if you want to be the best player on the field every day you got to continue to play this way. You’ve already set the bar high, you’ve showed you can be an elite defender. The challenge is going out there and doing it every day. The challenge is not getting caught up in your at-bats and taking it  on to the field. And you’re starting to see that with him.”

When he did take him aside, Pillar didn’t scold his outfield mate. Now in his sixth year in the big leagues and established as one of the best centre fielders in the game, Pillar has taken it upon himself to become more of a leader, and he certainly has taken Hernandez under his wing in the outfield.

“He’s still a young guy in this game and people forget that because of how poised he is and how successful he’s been since he’s been up here,” said Pillar. “He doesn’t have a ton of Major League service time and he’s making mistakes. That was the message I sent him. Obviously Gibby sent the message by taking him out of a game (after a sloppy play in Boston). Since the (Boston series) he’s been really, good out there, really consistent and playing hard and that’s what you expect from a guy who wants to be great.

“We’ve told him, ‘Hey, if you think you can catch it, go get it, no hesitating,” added Gibbons. “If you make a mistake doing it the right way, that’s the way it goes. But if you get a little bit hesitant, that’s when you make mistakes.”

Gibbons said in Hernandez’s case it’s just a matter of his defence catching up with his offence. Since joining the Jays’ big-league roster on Sept. 1 last season, Hernandez leads the team in triples (5), home runs (18) and RBI (49). He’s had 30 of his 52 hits go for extra bases (57.6%) – the third highest rate MLB (min. 30 hits).

“I think he’s a natural with the bat and I think he’s got the chance to improve and be a real good outfielder, because he’s athletic and he can run,” said Gibbons. “We’ve had some communications problems, not just him, but throughout the outfield. Sometimes if you have a real aggressive centre fielder that covers a lot of ground (Pillar), sometimes the guys in the corners will shy away a little bit and that can lead to (mistakes).”

Pillar agreed, but said the communication between himself, Hernandez in left and Randal Grichuk in right is on the upswing.

“I’m going to continue to be aggressive and call balls,” said Pillar. “It’s just something that they’re going to have to make an adjustment to. I expect to catch it, otherwise I’m not going to (call it). As the centre fielder, as the captain of the outfield, your voice is the one that matters out there. But my understanding both their range and their speed and what they’re comfortable getting to is going to allow me to maybe pull off some balls a little bit earlier knowing that they’re going catch them.”

JAYS TRENDING UPWARD IN OUTFIELD

There are some great outfields in Major League Baseball, perhaps none better than the Boston Red Sox trio of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts.

But looking at what’s happening in Toronto right now, long-time Blue Jays centre-fielder Kevin Pillar believes his club is on the verge of having a great outfield threesome — with Randal Grichuk healthy and playing well consistently in right and Teoscar Hernandez swinging the bat well and having the tools to become a quality left-fielder.

“I think it definitely has the makings of an outfield that has the potential to be here for a long time, has the potential to be very elite,” said Pillar, one of the top centre-fielders in the game. “You think about an outfield like Boston, with three fairly young, athletic guys who can all play centre-field, all throw the ball pretty good, all enjoy going out there and making plays, I think that’s kind of what you’re seeing the beginning of here.

“Obviously there’s still been some miscues out there (between us) but that’s just going to come with time. I think me and Grichuk have played together maybe 16-20 games this year. He missed some time in spring training, so I didn’t get a lot of reps with him out there. But I think it leaves this organization in a good position if the three of us are out there running down balls and putting together good at-bats.”

Pillar (29 years old) and Grichuk (26) are under contract for two more seasons while the Jays have control of Hernandez (25) until 2023.

SBuffery@postmedia.com
Twitter @Beezersun