Blue Jays squander top prospect Pearson’s dazzling debut with extra inning loss to Nats

Highly-touted pitching prospect Nate Pearson was as advertised in his big-league debut for the Blue Jays on Wednesday night, but the Washington Nationals spoiled Toronto’s home opener by scoring four times in the 10th inning for a 4-0 victory.

The Nationals (2-4) scratched out a run against reliever Shun Yamaguchi (0-2) before Asdrubal Cabrera broke the game open with a three-run triple.

Yamaguchi nearly got out of the inning unscathed after walking Carter Kieboom and Andrew Stevenson to load the bases. Pinch-runner Emilio Bonifacio started the frame on second base.

After back-to-back strikeouts, Adam Eaton hit a hard comebacker that Cavan Biggio scooped up before diving to second base to try to beat Stevenson for the force. Toronto challenged the safe call but the decision was upheld with Bonifacio scoring the game’s first run.

Tanner Rainey worked the 10th to preserve the shutout for the Nationals, who will go for a split of the four-game series on Thursday afternoon.

Pearson, a six-foot-six right-hander, kept the Nationals off-balance over five shutout innings. He allowed two hits, two walks and five strikeouts over the 75-pitch outing.

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Washington starter Max Scherzer was just as strong on a hot summer evening in the U.S. capital. The three-time Cy Young Award winner struck out 10 and allowed three hits over 7 1/3 scoreless innings.

The Blue Jays (3-3) will play so-called home games in road parks until the team’s 2020 home at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field is ready on Aug. 11. A team proposal to play home games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre was kiboshed by the government before the season due to concerns about COVID-19.

Toronto’s stadium operations crew sent player introduction recordings to Washington so the Blue Jays, sporting white home uniforms, could enjoy more of a home-field feel at Nationals Park. In an odd moment, “OK Blue Jays” was played during the seventh-inning stretch.

A towering presence on the mound, Pearson showed no sign of jitters against the reigning World Series champions.

He started with a bang, opening with a 95-mph fastball on the inside corner before getting Trea Turner to wave at two breaking balls for the strikeout.

Relying primarily on his heater and slider, Pearson mixed in the occasional curveball and change-up over his appearance. He reached 99 m.p.h. in the second inning and retired the side in order.

Pearson allowed an infield single to Turner in the third and a leadoff double to Eric Thames in the fourth. Thames advanced to third but Pearson struck out Kieboom on three pitches to end the threat, capping the at-bat with a 99-m.p.h. fastball at the knees.

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Pearson fanned two more batters in the fifth and Turner flew out to end the inning. The first-round draft pick was all smiles in the dugout afterward as teammates, manager Charlie Montoyo and pitching coach Pete Walker congratulated him on the effort.

The veteran Scherzer retired 13 in a row before giving up a leadoff single to Joe Panik in the eighth inning.

Anthony Alford came on as a pinch-runner, stole second and moved to third on a wide pickoff attempt. With his pitch count at 112, Scherzer was pulled after walking Derek Fisher.

Former Blue Jay Daniel Hudson (1-0) got Teoscar Hernandez to ground into a double play. Hudson struck out the side in the ninth.

By not selecting Pearson’s contract until Wednesday, he will not get a full year of service time in 2020 and his free-agent eligibility won’t begin until after the 2026 campaign. Pearson, the 28th overall pick in the 2017 draft, opened the season on the three-man taxi squad.

He split last year between class-A Dunedin, double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo. His longest run was at New Hampshire, where he was 1-4 with a 2.59 earned-run average in 16 starts, striking out 69 and walking 21.

It’s possible that Pearson could make 10-12 starts over the course of the regular season, which has been shortened to 60 games due to the pandemic.

Jays’ series in Philly pushed to Saturday

The Blue Jays will play in Philadelphia this weekend.

Major League Baseball confirmed Wednesday that the Blue Jays will play a double-header at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, followed by a game on Sunday. The series was originally scheduled to run Friday through Sunday.

The Blue Jays will serve as the home team during the three-game series.

The status of the series was cast in doubt following a novel coronavirus outbreak among the Miami Marlins, who played a season-opening series in Philadelphia last weekend. The Phillies’ four-game, home-and-home series against the New York Yankees was postponed this week

The Toronto Blue Jays will play two more games in Washington, D.C., before moving on to Philadelphia for a series this weekend. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Philadelphia general manager Matt Klentak said Wednesday that one employee who works in the visiting clubhouse has tested positive for the coronavirus, but all Phillies players and on-field staff tested negative for COVID-19 for a second straight day.

“We’re testing again today and I would expect we’d test daily for the foreseeable future,” Klentak said.

The Phillies’ “road” series with Toronto was switched to Philadelphia because the Blue Jays’ temporary ballpark in Buffalo, New York, isn’t ready. The Blue Jays have been displaced because the Canadian government didn’t want players crossing the border from the United States, where COVID-19 infections have spiked in many states, to play at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.

Klentak said the possibility that Saturday’s doubleheader would feature two seven-inning games is still being discussed, among other options.

The Phillies were scheduled to play the Marlins in Miami next week, but instead they will make up the games against the Yankees.

Klentak said the Phillies became aware that players on the Marlins had tested positive shortly before Sunday’s game and it was the league’s decision to play the game.

“We have to put health and safety first. That is priority No. 1,” Klentak said. “Our guys have been really good about speaking up when they have a question and understanding what they need to do to follow protocols. Most of our players recognize if they follow protocols, that’s the best way to limit an outbreak. They’ve been disciplined about that.”

Phillies pitching coach Bryan Price has been cleared to rejoin the team after missing two games due to COVID-19 protocols. Price stayed home as a precaution after not feeling well and has tested negative.