Nationals-Blue Jays Preview

The Associated Press

The Toronto Blue Jays experienced one of their best days at the plate this season at the end of their road trip but might have difficulty duplicating that feat when they return home.

After an 18-hit performance, the Blue Jays will open a three-game series Monday night against the Washington Nationals, who boast one of the best pitching staffs in the majors.

Toronto (31-29) batted .172 and scored eight runs during a three-game losing streak before breaking out for a 12-4 win in Atlanta on Sunday. Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus each homered and drove in three runs while helping the Blue Jays record their most hits this season.

Toronto had one hit through the first four innings before scoring six runs in the fifth.

"The way things started out, it wasn't looking real promising," manager John Farrell said. "We were able to string a number of hits together. ... We were able to string together not only the six runs but it continued on through the middle and latter part of the game."

After avoiding a sweep against one NL East team, Toronto will get to face the club that's leading the division by two games over the Braves.

The Nationals (35-23) have that lead in part because they have one of the best ERAs in the majors at 2.98. They held Boston to a .208 average during a three-game sweep at Fenway Park this weekend, 61 points below its season mark.

"This is a whole new ball club. There's great makeup, great talent on this ballclub. It's only going to get better," manager Davey Johnson said.

Washington limited the Red Sox enough Sunday to allow Roger Bernardina to play the hero in a 4-3 victory. He hit a two-out double in the ninth inning that scored Bryce Harper from first for the go-ahead run.

Harper was kept out of the starting lineup with tightness in his lower back but might return for the series opener in Toronto.

During that game, Edwin Jackson (2-3, 3.11 ERA) will try to help his team post its first four-game win streak since May 2-5 while building on his first victory in nearly two months.

The veteran right-hander gave up three runs and three hits over seven innings in a 5-3 win over the New York Mets on Wednesday. Jackson had a respectable 3.33 ERA during his eight-game winless stretch but went 0-3 while receiving an average of two runs per outing.

"(Jackson's) been outstanding," Johnson told the team's website. "He and (Jordan Zimmermann) really haven't had a lot of run support. Jackson has just been exceptional at times."

He might not get too much support in this outing with Blue Jays right-hander Brandon Morrow on the mound.

Morrow (7-3, 2.90) has a 0.59 ERA while winning back-to-back starts and has allowed one run or fewer in seven of his last 10 outings. He's given up six in each of the other three.

The right-hander recorded a two-hit shutout - a major league-best third this season - on Wednesday in Chicago. He also struck out five and walked two during that 4-0 victory.

While Morrow has never faced Washington, Jackson has made 13 starts against Toronto and allowed five or more runs in each of the last three with the most recent matchup on May 28, 2011. The right-hander, though, is 1-0 over those games and is seeking a fourth consecutive winning decision over the Blue Jays.

The Nationals are 9-21 over their last 30 games in Toronto.