Manager: John Gibbons (11th season)
Last 10 games: 5-5
Players to watch: INF Yangervis Solarte (.252, 12 HR, 37 RBIs), RF Teoscar Hernández (11 HR, 31 RBIs), 3B Josh Donaldson (.234, 5 HR, 16 RBIs). RHP Sam Gaviglio (2-2, 3.66 ERA), RHP Tyler Clippard (4-2, 3.34 ERA)
Series vs. Nationals: 1st meeting (2-1 in 2015)
May 28: RHP Aaron Sanchez (3-5) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez, 7:07 p.m., MASN
May 29: RHP Marco Estrada (3-6) vs. RHP Max Scherzer, 4:07 p.m., MASN
May 30: RHP Sam Gaviglio (2-2) vs. RHP Tanner Roark, 1:07 p.m., MASN
Inside the Blue Jays:
There’s no easy way to say it: The Blue Jays are simply struggling this season at the plate. Sitting at fourth place in the American League East with an ice-cold and incredibly streaky offense, a 9-19 May record and essentially an empty designated hitter spot, they have not been able to compete. In Wednesday’s series finale against the Rays at The Trop, the Blue Jays were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and managed five hits or less in for the fourth time in their last nine games. The bats are getting quieter and quieter, and even with a day off yesterday to collect themselves, they may not catch a break when they host the red-hot Nationals as they face off for the first time since 2015 when the Blue Jays took two of three games in Washington, D.C.
Despite all the struggles so far, our neighbors to the north have a few stars who may be able to shine this weekend. Infielder Yangervis Solarte has exceeded expectations in his first year with the team and is well on his way to surpassing several career highs. Even with a bit of a slump in his first 52 plate appearances (.149 average), the versatile switch-hitter is currently Toronto’s leader in home runs (12) and RBIs (37). After being recalled on May 22, second baseman Devon Travis has been one of the team’s hottest hitters, batting .292 over his last 15 games, including a current five-game on-base streak. All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson has been on the disabled list, but could rejoin the team tonight and will be a very welcome boost to a scuffling offense. Donaldson was slashing .234/.333/.423 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 36 games before being sidelined on May 29 with calf soreness.
Righty Aaron Sanchez will start off the series on tonight, his first career start against the Nationals. He’s coming off of two straight quality starts after not collecting any in May, earning the win against Detroit and a no-decision against Baltimore. Veteran right-hander Marco Estrada has struggled this year, sporting a 3-6 record with a 5.09 ERA. Like Sanchez, Estrada’s last two starts have been successful - he earned the win in his last appearance against Baltimore and surrendered just three runs and fanned 15 batters in 12 innings, lowering his ERA from 5.68 to 5.09. He’s 2-1 with a 4.34 ERA in six starts against his former club. Right-hander Sam Gaviglio will finish up the series on Sunday. Gaviglio was hit hard in his last start against an offensively struggling Rays squad, giving up five earned runs on seven hits in just 3 1/3 innings. It was a disappointing start after tossing seven shutout innings in his previous outing, and it won’t get easier for him facing a strong Nats lineup. He’s seen the Nats just once while with the Mariners, and got the loss after allowing five runs (one earned on an Anthony Rendon homer) on six hits.
Right-hander Tyler Clippard (4-2, 3.34 ERA) may have a few chances to face off against his former team. He’s allowed an on-base percentage of just .197 against left-handed hitters this season and his four wins are tied for second among all American League relievers. With top closer Roberto Osuna still out on administrative leave until at June 18, the Blue Jays are relying on Clippard, Ryan Tepera and Seunghwan Oh to pick up the slack.