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Game #70 Preview: Scherzer vs Estrada

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Nationals (37-29) vs Blue Jays (31-38)

MLB: Washington Nationals at Toronto Blue Jays John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

After a Solar(te) powered win last night, the Jays get back at it against the Nationals this afternoon at 4:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Marco Estrada goes for the Blue Jays, looking to build on his last couple starts that have been a lot more like the Estrada we have loved so much over the years*. He’s coming off back to back quality starts against the Orioles and Yankees in which he allowed 10 hits and a walk over 12 innings, allowing 1 home run and 3 runs total. He also struck out an impressive 15, after only striking out 2 total in his previous 2 starts.

But even with those 2 good starts, his numbers on the season are still looking not so good. Across 13 starts he’s 3-6 with a 5.09 ERA. He has done a great job limiting walks (2.29 per 9 innings), but is otherwise seeing his worst numbers across the board, especially his BABIP. It has gone down a fair bit over his last couple starts, but it is still a career high .308, despite allowing a career high fly ball percentage (54.2% of balls in play), which is a bit counter-intuitive since fly balls have a league wide BABIP of .115. But Estrada is running much higher than league average BABIPs on flyballs (.194) and on line drives (.767 vs. the league at .674). That is definitely a quality of contact issue for the most part, but there is also a bit of bad luck going into this as well.

*some more than others

Nationals’ Starter

The best pitcher in baseball makes the start against us today. Max Scherzer is 10-2 with a 2.00 ERA, leading the pitching world with 142 strikeouts, getting them at a ridiculous 13.50 per 9 innings. The only qualified starting pitchers to finish a season with over 13 K/9 were Pedro Martinez in 1999 and Randy Johnson in 2001 - two of the best pitching seasons of the modern era.

Now into the 4th season of his 7 year, $210m deal, Scherzer is well on his way to winning his 3rd consecutive Cy Young Award, and perhaps become the first person in baseball history who was underpaid on his $200m+ contract. Fangraphs’ already has his value over not even 3.5 years at $175.8m, so it will take a catastrophic injury to not get to $210m, and a severe decline in performance to not blow it away.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

After a game 1 loss of a June 2 double header in 2015, the Blue Jays were set to face Scherzer for round 2, likely suffering another punch to the gut in a season of hopes that started 23-30 to that point. But lead by a 2 homer game off Scherzer by Kevin Pillar, the Jays beat the Nats 7-3 and turned their season entirely around, leading to glorious things. (For the record, Estrada was the winning pitcher in that June game too).

I’m not predicting that for this game, but I do want to point out that Kevin Pillar is 3-3 with a pair of home runs off Scherzer in his career.

Also with 2 career home runs off Scherzer, albeit with 45 career appearances, is Curtis Granderson. In total, he has hit .243/.364/.486 off him.

I’m not sure how Gibby is going to get Granderson into the lineup, as traditionally he has done so by inserting Granderson at DH. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gibby use head to head stats against Scherzer in this one to aid in his lineup construction, so we’ll probably see Morales at DH (940 OPS in 14 PA) while Grichuk sits this one out (0-9 with 5 strikeouts) to get Grandy in RF. Grichuk could probably use a day off anyway.

Today will also be the off day in Russell Martin’s 2 on, 1 off cycle, so Luke Maile (#DeliverTheMaile) will be in there.

Nationals’ Lineup

Look for a very similar lineup to what was out there last night, although they might play around with the DH at some point.

Daniel Murphy has been at DH for the last 3 games for them, but he just got back from the DL. If they do opt to send him out to 2B, or bench him entirely, we’ll probably see Michael Taylor in CF and Bryce Harper the one moving to DH.

The other recently returned from the DL that should probably get a day off the turf is Adam Eaton, so I wouldn’t be surprised that today or tomorrow we see Taylor in CF and Harper in RF.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Yangervis Solarte probably should get this, but I’m giving the Monster Bat award to Freddy Galvis. The defense-first shortstop went an impressive 5-5, knocking out a home run and also chipping in a double to go along with his 3 singles to help his Padres take down the Braves 9-3.

Jose Urena went 8 shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits, a walk and a hbp as his Marlins shutout the Orioles 2-0. Sure, it was the Orioles, but 8 shutout innings and a .554 WPA still gets you both Pitcher of the Day and WPA King.

Milestone Watch

I still hope Donaldson isn’t back yet and he actually gets healthy before he does it, so I’ll leave out his milestones until he’s actually activated.

Aaron Loup got into last night’s game, and is now just 1 appearance back from Jim Clancy for 7th all time in franchise history. And considering he threw all of 4 pitches, bringing his 3 day total up to 6, he’s probably good to go today and will likely be brought in for Harper for his milestone tying appearance.

Find the Link

Find the link between Scherzer and the guy with 2 home runs in 45 PA off him.