Blue Jays close in on sweep of Nationals

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays, who have had trouble winning at home for stretches this season, have a chance for their second consecutive series sweep at the Rogers Centre,

The Blue Jays defeated the Washington Nationals 2-0 on Saturday afternoon and have won the first two contests of the three-game interleague series.

It was Toronto’s first shutout since Aug. 10, a stretch of 117 games.

Toronto (32-38) will send out right-hander Sam Gaviglio (2-2, 3.66 ERA) to try for the sweep Sunday afternoon. Washington (37-30) will counter with right-hander Tanner Roark (3-7, 3.63).

The Blue Jays swept the Baltimore Orioles in four games in their previous home series June 7-10 before dropping three in a row to the Tampa Bay Rays from Monday through Wednesday at Tropicana Field. Their home record for the season is 18-19.

Toronto’s six-game win streak at home followed an 1-10 drought at the Rogers Centre. The six-game win streak is their longest at home since they won seven in a row July 2-8, 2016.

The Nationals, meanwhile, have been shut out three times in their past five games and are in a 2-5 funk after an 11-4 surge.

“We’ve had some pitches to hit, we just didn’t hit them,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It’s surprising, but it happens. You run into good pitchers.”

Washington outfielder Bryce Harper was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Saturday and is in a 1-for-11 drought with three walks. He also has been hit twice by pitches.

“I watch him and he gets a little frustrated,” Martinez said. “The biggest is just to keep him level-headed and let him go out there and just do his thing. He is one of the best players in the game, he’s going to carry us, I know he is.

“He had a couple of pitches to hit (Saturday) and fouled them back. Usually, he typically hits those pitches, and hits them really hard and really far.”

Said Harper: “They’ve thrown a lot of heaters the past two days, more than I think as a team we’ve generally seen. But you’ve got to make adjustments and get pitches we can hit and not miss them.

“Good pitching beats good hitting any day of the week. That’s baseball … just have to keep grinding, keep going. I’m feeling great, just missing pitches.”

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are getting production from second baseman Devon Travis, who hit a two-run homer for the second game in a row Saturday. He was coming back from knee surgery last season and was being given one day off every three games.

“The plan was going into the season that we’d protect his knee a little bit until he started feeling good and we could extend that a little bit,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “We’re at that point now. The kid has always hit, he’s a real good hitter, everybody knows it’s just a matter of time. He might have been a little tentative early in the year, too, conscious of his knee a little bit. But two big games in a row here and he’s been really good since he’s come back.”

He had been optioned to Triple-A Buffalo on April 29 as he struggled and returned May 22. In his past 18 games, he is batting .333 with one double, one triple, three home runs and eight RBIs.

Roark allowed three runs, six hits and two walks in six innings in a 3-0 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday. He has never faced the Blue Jays.

Gaviglio gave up five runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings Monday in a loss to Rays after shutting out the Yankees in seven innings of a no-decision June 6. He has one career start against Washington and took the loss on May 24, 2017, when he was with the Seattle Mariners. He allowed five runs (one earned) and six hits in six innings in the game at Washington.