Blue Jays face stiff test in Nationals' Stephen Strasburg
With Stephen Strasburg on the mound, the Washington Nationals have a very good chance to make team history.
The right-hander tries to win his fifth straight start while looking to help the Nationals sweep the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday to complete a perfect six-game road trip.
Strasburg (7-1, 2.41 ERA) is 4-0 with a 2.74 earned-run average since losing to San Diego on May 15. He allowed two runs and matched a season high with 13 strikeouts in six innings of a 7-4 win at Boston on Friday to begin Washington's current five-game winning streak.
Strasburg, who turns 24 next month, became the youngest pitcher to strike out 13 at Fenway Park since Roger Clemens fanned 20 against Seattle in 1986.
"He's not just a thrower, he's a pitcher," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "He's special. He's a very good pitcher, obviously."
Strasburg, however, hopes to be more efficient Wednesday after throwing a career-high 119 pitches against the Red Sox.
"Obviously, you don't want to go out there and throw that many pitches," he said. "That's where I need to do a better job of pounding the strike zone and making them swing the bat."
This will be the first start against Toronto for Strasburg, who is 3-1 with a 1.84 ERA in five interleague outings. He is looking to join teammate Gio Gonzalez with eight wins.
The National League East-leading Nationals (37-23) matched a season high with their fifth straight victory Tuesday, 4-2 over the Blue Jays. Winners of six consecutive interleague games, the Nationals are trying to complete their first 6-0 trip since relocating from Montreal.
They last swept Toronto from June 14-16, 2002, in Montreal, but have never done so at Rogers Centre.
"It is going to be a big day," said manager Davey Johnson, whose team has a four-game lead over Atlanta in the East.
"We've got our big horse going. We just need to finish this off."
Bryce Harper hit a deep home run off the center field restaurant Tuesday while recording his second straight three-hit game.
"I don't really hit big home runs," Harper said. "It's usually just line drives that get going. That was a pretty good one."
The budding star outfielder is 9 for 16 with two home runs and five RBIs during the last five games.
Jose Bautista hit a two-run homer Tuesday for the Blue Jays (31-31), who are in danger of slipping below the .500 mark for the first time this season after losing for the fifth time in six games. Toronto has been held to three or fewer runs in each of its last five defeats.
"We're scuffling right now a little bit with men in scoring position," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.
Bautista, who had two of his team's five hits Tuesday, has hit six of his 18 home runs and recorded 14 runs batted in over his last 10 games.
Facing Washington for the first time, scheduled Toronto starter Kyle Drabek (4-6, 4.43) is 0-2 with an 8.59 ERA in his last three starts. The right-hander gave up three runs and four walks in five innings of a 4-3, 10-inning loss at Atlanta on Friday.