Up Next: Blue Jays hit the road to face up-and-coming Washington Nationals

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Georges
1 month ago
The Blue Jays (15-17) have lost three straight series, most recently dropping two of three to the Kansas City Royals to start the week. They have a chance to get back to winning games on the road against a rebuilding Washington Nationals (15-16) team that has surprised a bit to start the year. The Nats are just one game under .500 after getting blanked 6-0 by the Rangers on Thursday afternoon. They have been particularly good on the road, sporting an 11-8 record compared to a 4-8 home record.  Let’s take a deeper look at what has and hasn’t worked for them this season.
Nuts and Bolts
Friday, May 3rd, 6:45 EST: Yusei Kikuchi (2-2, 2.94 ERA) vs Patrick Corbin (0-3. 6.82 ERA)
Saturday, May 4th, 4:05 EST: Kevin Gausman (1-3, 4.50 ERA) vs Jake Irvin (2-2, 4.28 ERA)
Sunday, May 5th, 1:35 EST: TBD vs Mackenzie Gore (2-3, 3.19 ERA)
Starting Pitching
The Nationals rank 22nd in the Major Leagues in starting pitching ERA (4.40), with their performances being quite inconsistent from night to night. The Blue Jays will get the luxury of facing lefty Patrick Corbin in the series lid-lifter, a veteran who has struggled mightily to start the year. Corbin has ballooned many of the team’s pitching numbers this season, as he currently sports a 6.82 ERA and 1.89 WHIP.
Jake Irvin makes his 7th start for the Nats on Saturday, with his numbers looking mostly average to start the year. His command has been a strong suit for him this season, as he leads the team’s starting staff in the fewest walks given up (7), culminating in a 1.19 WHIP on the season.
Budding ace Mackenzie Gore takes the ball in game three, where the young lefty will make his second career start against the Blue Jays. Gore came over to Washington in the Juan Soto trade in August of 2022, putting up inconsistent numbers in his first full season in the Nation’s Capital last year. His WHIP remains high at 1.35, but he has flashed above average strikeout numbers (38 in 31.0 IP), en route to a 3.19 ERA. Gore may be toeing the rubber against Alek Manoah on Sunday, who seems poised to make his season debut for the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays will not end up facing Trevor Williams, who has been the best starter for the Nationals this season. Williams is a perfect 3-0 with a 2.17 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, and seems to be the perfect veteran presence to help this young pitching staff.
Washington is right in the middle of the pack in terms of bullpen performance this year, with their 4.01 ERA rankeing 16th in the Majors. Kyle Finnegan has been excellent in his second season as the team’s closer, converting 10 of 11 save opportunities and putting together a 2.03 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. Fellow right-handers Dylan Floro, Derek Law, and Hunter Harvey have also performed very well in middle relief and set-up roles this year. All three have ERAs under 3.00 on the year, as they’ve done a nice job at keeping leads late in games.
The biggest weakness for this bullpen has to be their lack of quality lefthanded options. The team currently has just one lefty relief pitcher on the roster in Robert Garcia, who has struggled to the tune of a 6.48 ERA and 1.92 WHIP on the season. Look for the Blue Jays to take advantage by bringing in lefthanded hitting options off the bench.
The Nationals rank 22nd in team OPS so far this season, a spot that isn’t all that surprising given their lack of proven big-league talent on the roster. One thing that they have succeeded at is stealing bases, as their 53 swipes rank second to the Cincinnati Reds for most in the league.
They have unquestionably been led this season by shortstop CJ Abrams, who is in the midst of a true breakout campaign at the age of 23. The Alpharetta, Georgia native has hit 7 home runs and swiped 7 bags, joining Elly De La Cruz as the only two Major Leaguers who have at least that many of each. His .950 OPS is by far the highest on the team, ranking 12th in MLB among qualified hitters.
A number of unheralded players have been effective for the Nats this season, including a couple of castoffs from other teams. Nick Senzel has only played in 14 games this season, but his 5 home runs and .878 OPS rank second on the club. Jesse Winker has recaptured some of the magic that he had earlier in his career, leading the team with 15 walks. Finally, centerfielder Jacob Young has been another bright spot, leading the club with 12 steals on a .351 on-base clip.
On the other side of things, Washington has had horrid production from a few lineup regulars. Joey Meneses sports a .534 OPS, having yet to hit a home run through 27 games. Lane Thomas is one of the closest things to a longtime National, as 2024 is his 4th season with the team. He has struggled mightily to get on base, repping a .503 OPS to start the year. He has contributed on the base paths however, having stolen 11 bags so far. Finally, Joey Gallo has taken his free-swinging ways to Washington this season, racking up an absurd 43 strikeouts in just 74 at-bats.

Final Word

With Yariel Rodriguez hitting the IL earlier in the week, it will be interesting to see if the Jays turn to Manoah or somebody else for Sunday’s start. It’s still early in the season, but this series seems like one that the Blue Jays have to at least take 2 of 3 games.

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