The Washington Nationals have yet to blink through the opening stages of their tour through the always-tough American League East.
The Nationals look to secure their first undefeated road trip since relocating to Washington and turn to ace Stephen Strasburg this afternoon in the finale of a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Washington opened up a span of 15 straight games against the AL East with a three-game sweep in Boston and have taken the first two of this series in Toronto. A victory today would give the Nats their first undefeated, multi- city road trip since the Montreal Expos swept back-to-back three-game sets in Houston and Atlanta from July 4-10, 1988.
The Nats will next return home for six in a row, three against both the Yankees and Rays, before a three-game set at Baltimore.
The Nationals have also made just their fourth trip back to Canada since relocating prior to the 2005 season a successful one. They came into this series having lost seven of nine in Toronto, but can sweep the franchise for the first time in Toronto and for only the second time in franchise history. The Blue Jays also dropped all three games of a set in Montreal from June 14-16, 2002.
Rookie Bryce Harper continued to impress north of the border, notching his second straight three-hit game in last night's 4-2 win. Harper also connected on a monster solo homer in the third inning, one of three hit by Washington in the game.
"I have guys around me that are swinging [the bat] and that helps me out even more," said Harper, who is hitting .382 in his past 20 games with five homes and 14 RBI.
Danny Espinosa also homered for the Nats, who have won a season high-tying five in a row, and Jhonatan Solano added his first career long ball.
Chien-Ming Wang picked up the win, allowing two runs in five innings. He gave up four hits and walked five, but he struck out five for the Nats, who have won five of their past six against the Blue Jays and own a four-game lead over the Braves for first place in the National League East.
Henderson Alvarez suffered the loss for Toronto, allowing four runs on nine hits over seven innings. The 22-year-old righty was tagged for all three Washington homers and has allowed 16 home runs in 13 starts.
"When he has missed on the plate, he hasn't gotten away with a mistake. For a ground-ball pitcher it's a high number of home runs at this point," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.
Farrell's club will now have to deal with Nats ace Strasburg, who tries to stretch his winning streak to five starts in a row today.
Strasburg hasn't lost since suffering his only defeat so far this season on May 15. He has allowed two earned runs or less in three of the four victories, pushing his season record to 7-1 with a 2.41 earned run average in 12 starts.
The young right-hander got the start at historic Fenway Park on Friday and gave up a pair of runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out a season high-tying 13 batters -- one off his career high -- and threw 75 of his career-high 119 pitches for strikes.
The outing gave Strasburg 208 strikeouts in 29 career games, making him just the sixth player since 1900 to fan 200 batters in 30 or fewer games according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"He's a competitor and when he goes out there he's going to give you his best stuff," said Washington manager Davey Johnson. "He did great tonight against a good hitting ballclub."
Strasburg, who faces the Blue Jays for the first time, remained undefeated on the road, with the 23-year-old 4-0 with a 2.19 ERA in six starts.
The Blue Jays counter with their own young righty in 24-year-old Kyle Drabek, who had lost two straight starts before getting a no-decision versus the Braves on Friday. Drabek pitched five-plus innings and yielded three runs on six hits and four walks while also failing to record a strikeout in the 4-3 defeat.
Drabek is 4-6 with a 4.43 ERA in 12 starts this season, but 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA in five outings at home. He has never before faced the Nationals.