Luis Garcia Jr. hits pinch, 3-run shot in 7th to help the Nationals beat the Blue Jays 9-3

WASHINGTON -- — Luis Garcia Jr. hit a three-run shot deep to center field in the seventh inning for his first career pinch-hit home run, helping the Washington Nationals rally for a 9-3 victory over the reeling Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.

Garcia connected on Erik Swanson’s 85-mph splitter for his second homer of the season to give Washington a 4-3 lead. Nick Senzel added an RBI double in the inning.

“I came just straight from hitting in the cage," Garcia said though a translator. "I was actually not trying to be too aggressive. I was just trying to focus on that at-bat to try to get pitch that was elevated. Fortunately he threw a splitter that hung a little bit and it was up and I was able to make good contact with it.”

The Nationals added four runs in the eighth, benefitting from two fielding errors. They have won six of their last eight to get back to .500 at 16-16. It was their 11th comeback win of the season.

“We are trying to get him not to chase," said manager Davey Martinez. "That’s the biggest thing. He is a high ball hitter. Trying to get him to think middle in for the most part and stay in the middle of the field. He’s been really good at doing that. He is doing well.”

Staked to a 3-1 lead, the Blue Jays' bullpen collapsed.

Swanson (0-2) and Tim Mayza combined to surrender four runs on four hits, getting just one out, to ruin a quality start from Yusei Kikuchi. Reliever Génesis Cabrera allowed four runs in just two-thirds on an inning.

“Just leaving pitches up in the zone," Blue Jays manager John Schneider said about Swanson. "I don’t know if he’s tipping pitches, honestly. I’m not afraid to say that publicly. He’s better than what he is showing right now.”

Kikuchi allowed one run on six hits over six innings on 100 pitches. It is the fifth consecutive start that the left-hander has gone six frames, matching a similar run in 2021.

The Japanese pitcher struck out seven, including six of seven batters in the middle frames, and has now walked only one batter in his last 22 innings.

The Blue Jays led 3-0 in the second but have now lost three in a row and lost eight of their last 11.

“Obviously, the last few games have been pretty tough losses but we are all preparing really hard and practicing behind the scenes," Kikuchi said through a translator. "I trust we are going to turn it around sometime soon.”

Daulton Varsho drilled a two-run double off Nationals starter Patrick Corbin.

Varsho’s double was the Blue Jays' third extra base hit in their first seven at-bats against Corbin. George Springer added a sacrifice fly to left field to make it 3-0.

After a shaky second frame, Corbin finished with three runs allowed over six innings on six hits, throwing 61 of his 92 pitches for strikes. Jacob Barnes (2-0) got the victory with an inning of shutout relief.

“Able to hold them to three there and get out of a jam in the next inning and then I felt really good after," Corbin said. "Just great to see the offense step up and put up some crooked numbers there late and get us back in the game.”


Blue Jays: Schneider said RHP Alek Manoah (right shoulder) threw a side Friday and “is definitely in the mix” to start Sunday’s finale. A decision will be made in the next 24 hours.

Nationals: RHP Josiah Gray (right elbow) will throw a bullpen Saturday. CF Victor Robles (hamstring) continues rehabbing with Triple-A Syracuse. Joey Gallo (left shoulder) and LHP Robert Garcia (flu) begin rehab assignments Saturday at Single-A Fredericksburg.


Blue Jays RHP Kevin Gausman (1-3, 4.50) was set to face RHP Jake Irvin (2-2, 4.28) on Saturday.