Pitching has been a strength for the Toronto Blue Jays in the early season, and it will need to be good again Tuesday night in Dunedin, Fla., to match Washington Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer.
After both teams had Monday off on the schedule, the Blue Jays will go with right-hander Trent Thornton (0-0, 1.86) against Scherzer (1-1, 1.80) in the opener of a two-game set.
Scherzer is 4-2 with a 2.00 ERA in 10 career starts against Toronto.
The Blue Jays also are expected to receive some hitting help with George Springer (quadriceps strain) and Teoscar Hernandez (COVID-19 protocols) close to returning.
Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo was optimistic that Springer, a big free-agent signing who started the season on the injured list, could make his season debut on Tuesday. Hernandez will likely need a little more time.
The Blue Jays staff showed its depth Sunday, shutting out the host Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 despite losing starter Hyun Jin Ryu after 3 2/3 innings.
Toronto's team ERA dropped from 3.20 to 3.04, the best in club history 21 games into a season.
When Ryu left the game with what was termed a "minor right glute strain," Tim Mayza, Tyler Chatwood, Ryan Borucki, David Phelps and Rafael Dolis shut down the Rays in the rubber match of the three-game series.
"It was awesome," Montoyo said. "To pitch with no room for error, it was a great game. Of course it was a great win, too, against our division (rival). Everybody had to do their job and they all did. They all did a great job."
A parade from the bullpen is probable on Tuesday as well. In his six previous outings this season, Thornton has gone as long as two innings twice. It will be his second appearance as an opener. In the other, he pitched two runless innings Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox.
Thornton has started only once in his career against Washington, with no decision and a 2.25 ERA after allowing eight hits in four innings in a 4-1 Toronto victory last July.
The Nationals are coming off a 4-0 loss to the host New York Mets on Sunday in the rubber match of a three-game series. Both losses to the Mets were by shutout, already marking the Nationals with five shutouts in just 19 games.
Note that in Scherzer's last three starts, the Nationals have scored a total of three runs, yet they have won two of the games, losing to the Dodgers 3-0, but beating both the Diamondbacks and Cardinals by 1-0.
The Nationals continue to deal with injuries. Right fielder Juan Soto (strained left shoulder) went on the injured list last Tuesday.
Shortstop Trea Turner was hit by a pitch on the left forearm in the sixth inning on Sunday. He eventually was removed from the game as a precaution, although later X-rays were negative.
"We'll see if we can get the swelling down a little bit," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said after the game. "But he feels like he could go (on Tuesday). We'll see how he is. It's his lead arm for swinging, so he took some swings in the cage, and it just got stiff on him, so we just wanted to take him out and get X-rays."
The Nationals are 3-2 since Soto was put on the IL. But they don't want to lose Turner as well.
Starters Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) and Jon Lester (COVID-19 protocols) and relievers Wander Suero (left oblique strain) and Will Harris (right-hand inflammation) remain out for the Nationals.
--Field Level Media