The Washington Nationals look for their first series sweep of the year when they visit the Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon.
For the Nationals franchise, it's a fortuitous matchup as they have won 15 of 20 previous games against the Royals, including a 5-1 mark as the Montreal Expos from 2002 to 2004. Kansas City has never won a series against Nationals.
The Nationals won 12-10 on Friday and 4-2 on Saturday, and they're looking for their first three-game series sweep since June 14-16, 2021, against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Washington left-hander MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.88 ERA) has never faced the Royals nor any of their current hitters.
The Royals starter will be lefty Daniel Lynch in his first start of the season after a left shoulder strain sent him to the injured list in March.
"He is super excited and he feels well," Royals manager Matt Quatraro said prior to Saturday's game. "He's coming off a really good outing and feels like he is in a good place mentally. All things are positive and we are looking forward to seeing him get out there."
Lynch made five rehab appearances (four with Triple-A Omaha), most recently throwing six shutout innings on just 61 pitches on May 23.
He has never pitched against Washington, and previous only faced one Nationals hitter, Jeimer Candelario, who has a homer among his three hits in 11 at-bats against Lynch.
Candelario continues to swing a hot bat, hitting .417 (20-for-48) over his past 12 games, including 10 extra-base hits and 10 runs scored.
Lane Thomas remains a leadoff threat, reaching safely in 23 consecutive games, with hits in 21 of those games, batting .326 (31-for-95) and scoring 20 runs. The Nationals were 10-6 when Thomas scored during that span.
While Washington stranded 10 runners during Saturday's victory and had just two hits in 15 at-bats with runners-in-scoring-position, they have recently made the most of their late-inning opportunities.
Over the last three games the Nationals have rallied from deficits to score 20 runs in the sixth inning or later.
Washington recorded seven straight hits to start the seventh inning, scoring five runs, on Thursday. On Friday, the Nationals then bashed out six hits, four for extra bases, during an eight-run sixth inning. The sixth inning was the charm again on Saturday, when six straight batters reach base on five hits and a walk, leading to four runs.
"I love for our offense to start getting runs early in the game," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "But you start wearing pitchers down a little bit, that third time through the order is key. We've been really good at it."
Corey Dickerson, who homered in the sixth on Friday, doubled for his 1,000th career hit and scored the tying run in the sixth inning Saturday.
The Royals bullpen continues to struggle.
On Saturday, Kansas City surrendered their 18th blown lead loss, including 10 in May. Only the Athletics (19) have more blown lead losses.
Royals relievers have allowed 31 runs over 50 1/3 innings pitched in 11 losses during the past 14 games, and have also allowed 12 runners inherited from starters to score. In their last five losses, the Kansas City bullpen has given up 22 runs in 18 1/3 innings.
--Field Level Media