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Washington Nationals Series #17 Preview: Blue Jays Opposition Research

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The Blue Jays come to D.C. and this series is expected to be much more fun than the last one. Sources indicate that the Nats aren't going to take this lying down. To prepare you for this series, here is a primer on the Toronto Blue Jays. Learn their strengths and weaknesses and take your job as armchair manager to new heights.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays are going to leave their fantastical "American League" rules behind and come to Nationals Park to play some real baseball for the weekend. The Jays have the second strongest offense in the majors after the Dodgers, but thanks to their dismal starting pitching they sit well below .500 for the time being. Can the Blue Jays jump on the Nationals while they are slumping, or will the discover that this three game skid was just an aberration?

Monday, 7:05 pm - Jordan Zimmerman vs R.A. Dickey
The knuckleballing Dickey has really struggled this year.  He has only won two games in ten starts, putting up a 5.77 ERA thanks in part to the 12 HR he has allowed.  In his last four starts he has allowed 22 ER in 25 IP.  Jordan Zimmermann has allowed 6 ER in 26 IP over his past four starts.  Edge to the Nats.

Tuesday, 7:05 pm - Max Scherzer vs Marco Estrada
Estrada has only been allowing an average of 3 ER per start but has yet to win thanks to a lack of run support.  This is not likely to change here since he was lucky enough to draw Scherzer.  Estrada has allowed 5 HR in his five starts.  Edge to Nats.

Wednesday, 7:05 pm - (A.J. Cole?) vs Mark Buehrle
Buehrle got a win after pitching a complete game despite allowing 4 ER in the 1st last time out.  With his 4.97 ERA he relies on run support as much as his rotation mates do, but he has gotten it and secured six wins in ten starts. The Nationals placed Strasburg on the DL, and Cole is expected to be called up to make the start.  Cole's first nine innings at the major league level have been rocky, with 14 hits but only one free pass handed out.

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The Blue Jays Lineup

The Jays have a couple of great players, but it's a steep drop off from there.

SS - Jose Reyes
average bat
average glove
++ speed
Reyes is batting .281/.290/.360 with career worst walk and strikeout rates.  That said, he is currently on an eight game hitting streak, so don't underestimate him just yet.
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3B - Josh Donaldson
++ bat
++ power
++ glove

15 HR, six of them in the past six games.  A .312/.372/.604 batting line. Great defense. This guy is dangerous and on fire, and it will take more than rain to cool him.
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RF - Jose Bautista
++ bat
++ power
- glove

Bautista has not played in the outfield since April 21st, when he injured his shoulder throwing the ball.  He has been the team DH since then and is hitting well, .242/.380/.483.

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1B - Encarnacion/Smoak
++ bats
- gloves
Edwin Encarnacion is having a serious down year.  He is merely league average at the plate.  Combined with his terrible defense, this has opened the door for switch hitter Justin Smoak to steal a few starts.
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C - Russell Martin
++ bat
+ glove
Another solid bat at .277/.364/.491.  This lineup is deep when they all play.
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LF - Chris Colabello
++ bat
- glove

Colabello's bat is hot in limited action, at .368/.417/.56
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CF - Ezequiel Carrera
average bat
+ glove
Finally, a nice average player.  Not super scary, though he does still have a .357 OBP in the #7 spot.  He gets moved around the outfield a lot, with Kevin Pillar also playing a lot of CF.
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2B - Ryan Goins
- bat (lefty)
+ glove
And here we are at the bottom of the lineup which is where it finally cools off a little.  Goins has a .289 OBP and little power.

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The Blue Jays Bullpen

The Jays bullpen is much better than their starting lineup.

Steve Delabar is riding a ridiculously low .067 BABIP against to a 1.04 ERA, though that is not expected to last. Rookie Roberto Osuna has been the real workhorse with 25 IP and a 1.75 ERA.  Brett Cecil has been solid as well, but it goes downhill from there.

The two lefties in the pen are Brett Cecil, the closer who doesn't have a save since May 4, and Aaron Loup, who sports a 5.03 ERA.

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Can They Be Swept?

There is no way to predict how games will turn out.  That said, there is no reason to expect that the Nationals can't beat the Blue Jays.  Their lineup is hot, their pitching is cold.  The Nats are putting their best starters on the mound in games one and two.  Winning is important here, with the Mets nipping at their heels again.

There are still 112 games to play, and despite their injuries the Nationals are a team to be reckoned with. Go out there with no expectations except to see the boys do their best. One does not win 140 games by losing games, so winning would be very much preferred. Let's root for the red team to bounce back strong here.

Never give up!  Never surrender!  Strike first and don't give them a chance!