WASHINGTON — The reigning World Series champion Nationals dropped to 1-4 in the pandemic-shortened season with a 5-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Tuesday night that included two outfielders colliding on a homer by Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr., two errors by Starlin Castro that led to three unearned runs, and just one hit for Washington after the third inning.
Washington has lost three consecutive games — scoring a grand total of four runs — which looms larger when there are only 60 games to play. Its offence clearly misses slugger Juan Soto, out since opening day because of a positive COVID-19 test.
Former Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark (1-0) got a win in his Blue Jays debut, allowing one run and three hits in five innings.
After hitting four solo shots in Monday’s series-opening victory, the Blue Jays tacked on two more off Austin Voth (0-1) — by Guerrero in the second, then Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the fourth. Voth went five innings, giving up two earned runs and four hits.
Guerrero, son of the Hall of Famer, drove a pitch toward the top of the fence, where outfielders Emilio Bonifácio — subbing for Soto in left — and Victor Robles both gave chase and jumped, knocking into each other. And so while Robles initially appeared to corral the ball with the webbing of his glove, the contact dislodged that red-and-blue piece of equipment from his left hand.
The glove and — more importantly — the ball ended up in the visitors’ bullpen, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead.
The Nationals tied it in the third when Adam Eaton followed Trea Turner’s double with a single. The next baserunner Washington produced from there was via Turner’s walk in the sixth — and he quickly was caught stealing. The next hit wasn’t until Turner’s double in the ninth.
The Blue Jays, who improved their record to 3-2, moved out to a 3-1 edge in the fifth when Castro’s two-out throwing error was followed by Teoscar Hernández’s RBI single. They added a couple of insurance runs in the eighth on Rowdy Tellez’s two-out single after a fielding error by Castro.
SAME PLACE, NEW HOME
The same two clubs begin a two-game series at the same ballpark Wednesday — except the Blue Jays will be the “home” team, the Nationals the “visitor.” The Canadian government did not want teams travelling in and out of Toronto, so the Blue Jays needed to find somewhere else to play. After a bit of a stop-and-start search, they settled on a minor league stadium in Buffalo — which is still being prepped to host big league games.
In another scheduling anomaly brought about by the pandemic, the Nationals will have an unheard-of three days off in a row at the end of this week. Their three-game series at Miami was taken off the calendar when Major League Baseball suspended the Marlins’ season through Sunday after a slew of positive COVID-19 tests. Washington manager Dave Martinez said there was a near-unanimous vote Monday night by the Nationals against travelling to Miami.
Martinez said the team got back a second negative test result for Soto, who was put on the COVID-19 IL last week.
Blue Jays: SS Bo Bichette (left hamstring) and OF Randal Grichuk (back tightness) sat out again and were listed as day to day by manager Charlie Montoyo.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (nerve issue, right hand) planned to “push himself a little bit” during a throwing session Tuesday, Martinez said.
On Wednesday, Nationals RHP Max Scherzer’s 358th start in the majors will be Blue Jays RHP Nate Pearson’s big league debut. Pearson is a 6-foot-6, 250-pound pitcher who was a first-round pick in the 2017 amateur draft and began last season at Class A. “I’m about to achieve a dream and a goal I’ve had since I was little,” said Pearson, who went to high school in Florida and noted that it’s a shame his family can’t be present for his debut. Three-time Cy Young Award winner Scherzer (0-1) lost on opening day to the Yankees.
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Howard Fendrich, The Associated Press