Bell’s three-run homer lifts Nats to sweep of Blue Jays

MLB

WASHINGTON (AP)Josh Bell hit a three-run homer off former teammate Brad Hand, and the Washington Nationals beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-5 on Wednesday.

Juan Soto and Carter Kieboom also connected for Washington, which won back-to-back games for the first time since July 27-29. The Nationals had dropped 12 of 13 prior to the two-game interleague series.

Marcus Semien homered twice and Teoscar Hernandez went deep for the fourth consecutive game for Toronto, which has lost five of six since reaching a season-high 11 games over .500 on Aug. 11. The Blue Jays completed interleague play with a 14-6 record, all against the NL East, but went 1-3 against the fourth-place Nationals.

Hand (5-7), who was acquired on July 29 as part of Washington’s sell-off at the trade deadline, entered with one on in the seventh and Toronto clinging to a 5-4 lead. After Soto walked, Bell hit a go-ahead drive to right. Two batters later, Kieboom tacked on a solo shot to left.

Bell, who hit .113 with two homers and five RBIs in 53 April at-bats, has raised his average to .241. It’s his third career 20-homer season in his first year in Washington.

”Josh is quietly having a pretty good year,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. ”He has 20 home runs, 65 RBIs after the way he started. This guy has done a tremendous job for us.”

Toronto’s bullpen allowed 10 runs in eight innings during the two-game series. Hand is 0-2 with a 7.50 ERA in eight games since joining the Blue Jays.

”Most of the guys in the bullpen are kind of struggling right now,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. ”I trust Brad Hand to make an adjustment because he’s around and he’s been a closer before. He’s been good and bad, and of course today he was not good. That’s a fact. I trust him that he’ll make an adjustment and be better next outing.”

Mason Thompson (1-1) recorded the last two outs of the seventh for his first major league victory. Kyle Finnegan pitched 1 1/3 innings for his fourth save.

Washington starter Josiah Gray, acquired last month in the deal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowed two runs and five hits in six innings.

Gray has a 2.86 ERA in four starts with Washington. With Hernandez’s homer in the second and Semien’s in the third, the seven earned runs he has allowed since the trade have come on solo homers.

Gray departed with a 4-2 lead, but it didn’t last long. Ryne Harper yielded Corey Dickerson’s two-run homer and Semien’s solo shot on consecutive pitches in the seventh.

Soto’s three-run homer in the first was all Washington could manage against Jose Berrios, who allowed five hits in five innings. He has a 3.80 ERA in four starts since he was acquired in a July 30 trade with Minnesota.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: LHP Tim Mayza was activated from the injured list and INF Kevin Smith was promoted from Triple-A Buffalo. RHP Alek Manoah was placed on the bereavement list and RHP Rafael Dolis was designated for assignment. Dolis was 2-3 with a 5.63 ERA in 39 games. … RHP Ross Stripling (oblique strain) won’t throw for the next 10 to 14 days. … Montoyo said he anticipates C Danny Jansen (hamstring strain) will begin a rehabilitation assignment by next week.

Nationals: C Alex Avila (calf strains) ran some Wednesday. Martinez said Avila would throw to bases prior to Friday’s game. … RHP Austin Voth pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts Tuesday in his first rehab appearance at Triple-A Rochester. Voth has been on the COVID-19 injured list since July 29. … RHP Tanner Rainey, demoted to Rochester last month, reported pain in his side and was shut down. An MRI exam was negative.

ON-BASE MACHINE

Soto walked three times in addition to his home run. Soto has reached safely in 27 of 41 plate appearances over the last 11 games (a .659 on-base percentage), hitting .435 (10 of 23) while walking 16 times and getting hit by a pitch once.

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: Begin a seven-game homestand Friday when LHP Robbie Ray (9-5, 2.88 ERA) faces Detroit to open a three-game series.

Nationals: Open a three-city, nine-game road trip in Milwaukee on Friday. The Nationals have not announced their rotation plans.

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