A pitchers’ duel pitting veteran ace against lauded prospect lived up to the billing. To break a nil-nil tie in extra innings, some bats finally had to come alive.
With two outs in the 10th, Adam Eaton singled home Emilio Bonifacio and Asdrúbal Cabrera uncorked a 3-RBI triple to give the Washington Nationals a 4-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Bonifacio started the 10th on second base, in accordance with one of Major League Baseball’s new rules for 2020. He was chosen to pinch-run for Starlin Castro, who would have otherwise drawn the assignment.
Eaton’s bases-loaded hit hopped into the air and Blue Jays second baseman Cavan Biggo nearly tagged Andrew Stevenson out at second, which would have ended the half-inning and nullified the run. Stevenson’s feet even left the bag for a split second, but Biggio no longer had his glove on the bag.
An official review confirmed that Stevenson was safe.
“Typically I kinda only have one gear when (I’m) running, and it’s kinda wide open,” Stevenson said. “But I saw kind of their alignment, so I knew once it hit off the pitcher’s foot that there was a chance that might be their only play. Like I said, just lucky to beat him, and we got the win out of it.”
Cabrera promptly came up and cleared the bases with a line drive into the right field corner.
Max Scherzer went 7 ⅓ innings, struck out 10 and scattered just three hits for the Nationals (2-4). He said he knew he could push himself to the limit because he’ll have seven days between starts instead of his usual four; Washington has off Friday through Sunday because they were scheduled to play the Miami Marlins, whose season is suspended.
“We needed this win,” Scherzer said. “We needed to start getting some mojo going. So it’s good to see the offense really — even if it took till the 10th inning, the offense got going. Sometimes hitting can be contagious, and hopefully that rolls into tomorrow.”
Daniel Hudson came on for him in the eighth, inheriting two of his baserunners, but forced a double play and went on to earn the win. Tanner Rainey held the Blue Jays at bay in the 10th.
“It’s really encouraging to see those guys at the back end of the bullpen throwing well, because they’re huge for us,” Scherzer said. “They get the three outs when you need it. Hopefully we keep them healthy, we keep them going and we keep winning ball games.”
Scherzer now has the distinction of striking out both Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and Jr. in his career after fanning Guerrero Jr. in the fourth inning. Presented with this information, Scherzer quipped: “Man, I’m just getting old.”
Blue Jays starter Nate Pearson, one of the sport’s top pitching prospects, made his major league debut and threw five scoreless innings with two hits and five strikeouts. Pearson flashed some elite pitches; Nationals third baseman Carter Kieboom went down looking on a 99 mph fastball that painted the low-outside corner.
Toronto had a predetermined pitch count in mind for the 23-year-old, but even after Pearson left, the Nationals couldn’t buy a run. They left six runners on base through the first nine innings.
The Nationals batted first because they were the designated road team due to Toronto’s unsettled stadium situation. With Bonifacio already on to open the 10th, Blue Jays pitcher Shun Yamaguchi walked Carter Kieboom and Stevenson to load the bases, setting the stage for the only runs of the game.
“Today it felt good because we were able to win a game,” manager Dave Martinez said of the runner-on-second rule. “Hopefully tomorrow we win in regulation.”
The Nationals and Blue Jays will meet one more time Thursday, with the Jays again the “home team,” before Washington’s weekend off.