5. Mad Grounderz: At the end of his first season in the majors in 2013, Washington Nationals' skipper Davey Johnson talked to reporters about what he saw from Taylor Jordan in nine starts with the Nats in which the ground ball-inducing right-hander was (1-3) with a 3.66 ERA, a 3.49 FIP, 11 walks (1.92 BB/9) and 29 Ks (5.05 K/9) in 51 2/3 IP over which he was worth +0.7 fWAR.
"I like all his pitches," Johnson said, but, he explained, Taylor was still young, at just 24 years old at that point.
"I don't think he knows how good his stuff is yet," Johnson explained. "He relies a lot on the catcher about where to go to and he doesn't think about the count. Sometimes he goes to throw hard instead of just locate with that good sink and when he gets in that good rhythm... "
Johnson trailed off dramatically, but to finish his thought, when Taylor is going strong and gets in a rhythm, he gets grounders in bunches.
"He's got a great arsenal," Johnson said. "I really like his weapons."
"His key is keeping the ball down," Johnson continued. "When he gets the ball up, sometimes he gets the ball up and tries to throw harder and [Steve McCatty] tells him, 'Just keep the ball down.' You know, he's got great sink."
Taylor started the 2014 season in the Nats' rotation, but struggled and was sent down after five relatively ineffective outings. His season ended in August and he underwent elbow surgery (debridement) last September.
After returning to the mound this year, the '09 9th Round pick was (1-2) in seven starts at Triple-A Syracuse, with a 2.14 ERA, a 2.62 FIP, eight walks (1.71 BB/9) and 26 Ks (5.57 K/9) in 42 IP before he was called back up to the majors last week.
Taylor took over for Stephen Strasburg in the second inning in Cincinnati last Friday, and tonight took Strasburg's turn in the rotation in the series finale with Toronto, facing the Blue Jays for the first time.
Taylor's first start of the year for the Nationals began with a four-pitch walk to Blue Jays' leadoff man Jose Reyes, and a double off the center field wall by Josh Donaldson, who took a 1-2 change for a ride and just missed a home run. Jose Bautista singled to left on a 92 mph 1-2 fastball to bring Reyes in, 1-0. Chris Colabello connected for the third straight hit, sending a 2-2 slider to right for an RBI single that scored Donaldson, 2-0. An RBI groundout by Justin Smoak brought Bautista in and a two-out single to left by Kevin Pillar scored Colabello as Toronto scored four before Jordan could get out of a 32-pitch first.
Mark Buehrle lined a single to center in the first at bat of the second, but he was forced out at second on a one-out grounder to third by Josh Donaldson. Jose Bautista's fly to right ended a much quicker nine-pitch second. 41 total.
Two swinging and one backwards K got Jordan through another quick frame in the third, 14-pitch frame, 55 overall.
Kevin Pillar singled to left on an 0-1 fastball in the first at bat of the fourth, but was forced out at second on a grounder to first by Ryan Goins. Buehrle bunted Goins over/gave up an out, and Goins scored on a two-out single to right by Jose Reyes, 5-0. 16-pitch fourth for Jordan, 71 total.
Three ground ball outs got Jordan through a quick, 11-pitch, 1-2-3 frame, after which he was up to 82 pitches and nine groundouts.
Justin Smoak hit a 1-0 changeup up in the zone to right for a leadoff double in the top of the sixth, and took third base on a Kevin Pillar groundout to the right side of the infield before scoring on a pop to left by Ryan Goins that dropped in front of a diving Tyler Moore. 6-0. Goins took third on a groundout by Buehrle and scored on a Jose Reyes' single to center, 7-0. 18-pitch frame, 100 total.
• Taylor Jordan's Line: 6.0 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 100 P, 69 S, 11/2 GO/FO.
4. Buehrle in D.C.: In six starts in May, 36-year-old, 16-year veteran Mark Buehrle was (3-3) with the Blue Jays 3-3 as well when he toed the rubber. Over 39 ⅔ innings last month, Buehrle posted a 4.99 ERA, a 4.50 FIP, nine walks, 20 Ks and a .248/.298/.436 line against, leaving him with a 4.97 ERA, a 4.72 FIP, 14 walks (1.99 BB/9) and 30 Ks (4.26 K/9) in 10 starts and 63 ⅓ IP for Toronto, over which opposing hitters had a combined .297/.332/.482 line against the left-hander.
In the series finale with the Nationals in Washington, D.C. tonight, Buehrle was facing the Nats franchise for the just the sixth time in his career, after going (2-0) in the previous five outings with a 4.64 ERA, eight walks and 20 Ks in 33 IP over which Nationals' hitters had a .278/.324/.437 line against him.
The Nats, as a team, entered the series finale with a .249/.323/.394 line against lefties this season, good for 19th in the majors in AVG, 16th in OBP and 17th in SLG amongst MLB's 30 teams.
Buehrle was looking for his second straight win and his third in the last five starts, after throwing a complete game against the Minnesota Twins last time out in which he gave up six hits and four runs in a 6-4 Jays' win.
His outing in the series finale in D.C. began with a scoreless six-pitch first in which he gave up a one-out single, but got an inning-ending 6-4-3.
Ryan Zimmerman reached on an error by Jose Reyes with one down in the Nats' second, but he was forced out at second on a Wilson Ramos' grounder to short and Ramos was forced out at second on a Tyler Moore grounder to Reyes. 4-0 Jays after two. 10-pitch second, 16 total.
Taylor Jordan doubled with one down in the Nats' third, but was doubled up on a 5-4-3 DP off Denard Span's bat in the next AB. Seven-pitch frame for Buehrle, 23 total after three.
Yunel Escobar and Bryce Harper hit back-to-back one-out singles in the Nationals' fourth, but Ryan Zimmerman K'd swinging over a 1-2 change and Wilson Ramos grounded into a force at second. 21-pitch inning, 44 total after four.
Danny Espinosa took the first walk from Buehrle with one down in the fifth, but was stranded at first two outs later. Buehrle was up to 56 pitches after a 12-pitch fifth.
Bryce Harper doubled to right with two down in the Nats' sixth, taking a hanging curve from Buehrle to the corner, but was stranded at second after his 11th two-base hit when Ryan Zimmerman lined out to left. Nine-pitch frame, 65 total.
Wilson Ramos sent groundout no.13 for Buehrle to short for the first out of the seventh. Two quick outs later, the Blue Jays' lefty had seven scoreless on 74 pitches after a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.
Three groundouts in a 1-2-3 eighth gave Buehrle eight scoreless and 16 groundouts. 11-pitch frame, 85 total.
Yunel Escobar singled to start the Nats' ninth, but he was doubled up on a 6-4-3 off Bryce Harper's bat. Wilmer Difo's groundout, of course, ended the game.
• Mark Buehrle's Line: 9.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 93 P, 66 S, 18/2 GO/FO.
3. SPAN!!!: Denard Span returned to the lineup tonight after missing the doubleheader on Tuesday with patella tendon soreness in his right knee, which he injured slipping in the outfield in Wrigley Field last week.
As of last night, when Nats' skipper Matt Williams spoke to reporters, he wasn't sure that the 31-year-old outfielder would be available.
"[He's] just sore," Williams said.
"Not going to push him in that regard. So we'll see how he is tomorrow, couple of days off hopefully are good for him and he's got some anti-inflammatory medication to take that swelling out of there, so hopefully he feels a lot better tomorrow."
Span apparently felt good enough to go tonight, because he was penciled in atop the lineup when the Nationals released it.
In 33 games since the center fielder returned from the second surgical procedure of the year for a core muscle injury, Span put up a .314/.356/.504 line with 11 doubles and five home runs in 150 PAs before he sat out the last two games.
Back in the lineup tonight, Span had to test the knee early, sprinting down the line on a chopper Mark Buehrle handled, making a glove toss to first that just beat Span to the bag. 0 for 3 through six.
Span was 0 for 4 after a groundout in the eighth. But the knee was good enough for him to play the whole game.
2. Turning Point(s): The key to Jordan Zimmermann's success in the series opener yesterday, both Zimmermann and Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the game, was keeping Jose Reyes off the basepaths. Tonight's starter, Taylor Jordan, issued a four-pitch walk to the Blue Jays' leadoff man in the first at bat of the series finale tonight, and Josh Donaldson double and a Jose Bautista single brought Reyes around for a 1-0 lead before an out was recorded.
The Blue Jays added three more in the first and added another run in the fourth for a 5-0 lead early in the series finale. Jordan was up in the zone and getting hit hard when he was, though he settled in after the first.
1. The Wrap-Up: Taylor Hill took over for Taylor Jordan in the top of the seventh with the Blue Jays up 7-0 and worked around a two-out single by Dioner Navarro for a scoreless inning of work.
Hill threw a quick, nine-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth for two scoreless on 24 pitches.
Jose Reyes was 3 for 4 on the night after a line drive single off a leaping Tyler Moore's glove in the first at bat of the ninth, but he was doubled up on a 6-4-3 DP off Josh Donaldson's bat. Jose Bautista hit a two-out blast to left in the next at bat, however, to make it 8-0 Blue Jays after eight and a half.
8-0 final. Complete game shutout for Mark Buehrle.
Nationals now 29-24