MLB

Blue Jays muscle past Nats on strength of Guerrero, Gurriel home runs

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.

Toronto's top prospect Pearson slated to start against Scherzer in Wednesday debut

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. celebrates his home run during the team's 5-1 win over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday. (Nick Wass/The Associated Press)

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.

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Guerrero, son of the Hall of Famer, drove a pitch toward the top of the fence, where outfielders Emilio Bonifacio — 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 Hernandez'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.

Pearson set for debut

After tossing the ball around in the outfield, Blue Jays pitcher Nate Pearson took a few moments Tuesday to walk on the mound at Nationals Park in anticipation of his first big-league start.

His debut will come Wednesday night against Washington's Max Scherzer in Toronto's so-called home opener.

"I wanted to get out there on the mound, just get my bearings, take some visualization and feel what it's like just to be around the diamond right there," Pearson said on a pre-game video call. "Visualize home plate and the batter stepping in. Just mentally preparing for tomorrow.

"That's really all it was. Just getting used to the atmosphere out there."

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Nate Pearson, seen during an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 21. Pearson, the team's top prospect, is scheduled to face former Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and the World Series champion Washington Nationals on Wednesday. (Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

The six-foot-six right-hander will start the third of four straight games against the reigning World Series champions. Selected 28th overall by Toronto in the 2017 draft, Pearson is considered one of the top prospects in the major leagues.

"I'll probably get nervous tomorrow leading up to the game but it'll be good nerves, like excitement and everything leading up to that," he said.

Pearson, who can reach 100 mph with his fastball, started the season on the three-man taxi squad. By delaying his call-up, the Blue Jays get an extra year of contractual control.

"I try not to let that stuff bother me," Pearson said. "Obviously bringing me up right after the service time date brings up a lot of speculation. But at the end of the day, it's a business move. I want the Blue Jays to be successful and they're just doing what's best for the organization and I can't take that personally.

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Pearson split last year between class-A Dunedin, double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo. His longest run was at New Hampshire, where he was 1-4 with a 2.59 earned-run average in 16 starts, striking out 69 and walking 21.

He said he was told last week in Boston about the team's plans to start him in the sixth game of the year.

"The sky is the limit with this kid," said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. "I'm really happy that he's getting a chance to pitch."

With files from The Canadian Press

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