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Washington Nationals sweep two-game set with Toronto Blue Jays in D.C. with 8-5 win...

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Washington’s Nationals homered their way to a second win in a row over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Photo used with permission of rights holder.
Photo used with permission of rights holder.

Josiah Gray gave up two solo homers in six innings, for the only two runs he allowed, but a three-run home run by Juan Soto in the first kept the Washington Nationals ahead through five, and they added a run on a Ryan Zimmerman single in the sixth, 4-2, but Ryne Harper took over on the mound in the seventh and gave up a leadoff walk, one-out, two-run home run, and then a solo shot in the next at bat as the Toronto Blue Jays jumped out to a 5-4 lead.

Josh Bell hit a three-run blast off former Nats’ closer Brad Hand in the seventh, however, and then a solo shot by Carter Kieboom put the home team up by three, 8-5 final.

Gray vs the Jays: Josiah Gray gave up three runs on three solo home runs in six innings of work on the mound against Atlanta last weekend, in the second consecutive starts against the Braves, after giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits in the first of the two outings.

The outing didn’t start until 10:15 PM in D.C., after a long rain delay, but the 23-year-old said he felt good once he got on the mound, though the home runs he gave up came in his last three innings of work.

“I felt like my stuff was really playing,” Gray said after the outing. “I was getting ahead of batters, a little bitter ending at the end, but I felt great throughout that outing and you know, given the circumstances with the rain delay as well, I thought I couldn’t have done much different, and I’m excited for that outing, and I thought it was good.”

Going up against the Blue Jays today, Gray retired the side in order in a nine-pitch first, and he came back out for the second with a 3-0 lead, courtesy of a Juan Soto homer, and gave up a leadoff home run by Teoscar Hernández on a 2-2 curve at the top of the zone that went out to left and into the visitor’s bullpen.

Marcus Semien hit a 2-0 fastball out to left field for the second solo home run off of Gray by the Jays with two out in the top of the third, connecting for his 28th of ‘21, and making it 3-2 in the Nationals’ favor.

Gray held it there through five, with 64 pitches overall on the day, but the Jays put two men on with two out in the top of the sixth, with Hernández doubling with two down, and taking third on a Lourdes Gurriel single, before both runners were stranded when Breyvic Valera popped out to end a 23-pitch frame which left the Nationals starter at 87 overall after six.

Josiah Gray’s Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 2 HRs, 87 P, 55 S, 4/4 GO/FO.

Berríos vs the Nats: Acquired from MInnesota at the trade deadline, 2012 Twins’ first round pick José Berríos debuted with the Blue Jays with six scoreless innings against the Royals.

He followed up on that outing with six strong against the Boston Red Sox in Toronto’s Rogers Centre, in which he gave up one run.

The third time out, however, the 27-year-old right-hander struggled, giving up eight hits, four walks, and six earned runs in 4 13 IP on the road against the LA Angels.

“He didn’t have his fastball command, so he had to battle the whole time,” manager Charlie Montoyo said, as quoted on MLB.com.

“He still found a way to get to the fourth inning, which was huge to save our bullpen. But the key was that his fastball command was not there tonight.”

Going up against the Nationals tonight, Berríos fell behind early, giving up a single by Victor Robles, throwing one away trying to get Robles at second on an Alcides Escobar grounder back to the mound, and surrendering a three-run, opposite field home run to left field on a 2-0 sinker outside to Juan Soto that Soto lined into the first rows above the wall, 3-0, No. 20 for Soto.

Berríos settled in after the first, holding the Nationals there as the Jays rallied to get within one with solo homers in the second and third, and he took the mound in the fifth at just 71 pitches, and worked around a two-out walk to Soto in a 17-pitch frame.

José Berríos’s Line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 88 P, 49 S, 7/3 GO/FO.

SotOBP: Going into today’s game against the Blue Jays, Juan Soto had reached base in 23 of his previous 36 plate appearances, “good for a .639 on-base percentage over his last 10 games,” as the Nationals noted in their pregame notes.

“He is 9-for-21 (.429) with three doubles, a homer, five RBI(s), 13 walks, one hit by pitch, and seven runs scored over this stretch,” they added.

Soto made it “reached base” in 24 of 37 plate appearances, when he rounded the bases after hitting a three-run home run in his first trip to the plate this afternoon, and he took walks in both of his next three PAs.

Bullpen Action: Blue Jays’ lefty Tim Mayza replaced Berríos in the bottom of the sixth, and hit Carter Kieboom with one down before giving up a two-out single by Riley Adams, that ended his outing. Jays’ skipper Charlie Montoyo went to right-hander Adam Cimber with Ryan Zimmerman up as a pinch hitter, and Zimmerman smoked a first-pitch sinker, hitting one back up the middle for an RBI single and a 4-2 Nats’ lead.

Ryne Harper gave up a leadoff walk to Randal Grichuk and a one-out, two-run home run to right field by Corey Dickerson, who tied it up at 4-4 with one swing, and Marcus Semien hit a first-pitch slider out to left in the next at bat, 5-4 Jays. That was it for Harper...

Mason Thompson took over on the mound with the Nationals suddenly down by a run and got two quick outs to keep it a one-run game.

Alcides Escobar singled off Cimber to start the Nationals’ half of the seventh, and the Jays went to the pen again, bringing on former Nats’ closer Brad Hand to face Juan Soto with a man on in a one-run game. Soto walked in his third straight plate appearance after hitting the three-run homer the first time up. Josh Bell stepped in next and hit an 0-1 slider out to right field from the right side for a three-run, opposite field blast and a 7-5 lead. Bell’s 20th.

Carter Kieboom got all of a first-pitch fastball from Hand one out later and made it an 8-5 lead with his third of the season.

Andres Machado retired two batters, but gave up back-to-back two-out walks before Davey Martinez went to the pen again for Kyle Finnegan, who stranded both runners he inherited.

Finnegan came back out in the ninth and worked around a two-out error by Josh Bell and locked down the win.

Final Score: 8-5 Nationals

Nationals now 52-68