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Washington Nationals vs. Toronto Blue Jays Series Preview: Which team can wake up its offense?

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The Washington Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays have both been struggling at the plate lately.

Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Nationals (37-28) vs. Blue Jays (30-38) series info:

Game 1: Friday, June 15 at 7:07 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Saturday, June 16 at 4:07 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Game 3: Sunday, June 17 at 1:07 p.m. EST (MASN/106.7)

Pitching matchups:

Friday: Gio Gonzalez (6-2, 2.65 ERA) vs. Aaron Sanchez (3-5, 4.33)

Saturday: Max Scherzer (10-2, 2.00) vs. Marco Estrada (3-6, 5.09)

Sunday: Tanner Roark (3-7, 3.63) vs. Sam Gaviglio (2-2, 3.66)

What to watch for:

Relievers on a roll

Since stumbling out to an 11-16 start, the Nationals have turned their biggest weakness into one of their strongest assets. Washington’s relievers combined for a 5.03 ERA over the team’s first 27 games but have amassed a 2.66 ERA since — the fourth best bullpen ERA in the majors over that span. That number has only improved since the May 27 call-up of Justin Miller, who’s emerged as a key setup man thanks to 10.2 innings with no walks or runs allowed along with 21 strikeouts. Although Brandon Kintzler’s trip to the disabled list hurts the Nats’ depth, Miller figures to step right into his seventh-inning role.

The outfield logjam

Adam Eaton is back, Juan Soto isn’t going anywhere, Bryce Harper still dons a Nationals uniform and Michael Taylor has been one of the hottest hitters on the team over the past three weeks. Yet there are only four starting outfield spots and at least one of these players is going to see some decreased playing time. Taylor appears to be the most obvious option, still sporting just a .669 OPS on the season. Washington will have the benefit of a designated hitter while in Toronto, so one of them could fill that role if Daniel Murphy is deemed healthy enough to play second base. Once the series is up, however, the Nats will have some tough decisions to make.

Blue Jays struggling offensively

Similar to the Nats, Toronto has been relying heavily on its pitching staff to pick up wins as the offense has gone missing over the past few weeks. Unlike the Nats, the Canadian ballclub doesn’t have one of the best rotations or bullpens in the league. The Blue Jays’ .232 team batting average ranks third-worst in the American League. Although that’s only four points lower than Washington’s, Toronto is just 7-13 over its past 20 games whereas the Nats are 13-7 in that span.

Series history:

The Blue Jays have a slim 11-10 lead in the all-time series (2005-present), including a mark of 7-5 at the Rogers Centre. Toronto took the season series 2-1 the last time these clubs played each other in 2015.