Taylor solidifies place in outfield with powerful NLDS performance

Every Nationals player would be the first to admit personal accolades can never replace the accomplishment of moving on to the National League Championship Series, a prize the Nats have been unable to reach in four trips to the postseason since 2012.

But one thing is for sure following Thursday’s Game 5 loss to the Cubs: Michael A. Taylor is a budding star.

Taylor’s grand slam to beat the Cubs in a rainy Game 4 has got to rank as the biggest, or at least in the top two or three, hit in a road playoff game since the Nats starting playing baseball in 2005.

Taylor-grand-slam-NLDS-sidebar.jpgHe followed that up with a three-run shot early in Game 5, providing the Nats a 4-1 lead before you know what happened.

But the two homers and seven RBIs in a matter of two at-bats late in the National League Division Series are a big deal for Taylor, who spent 110 games in the minors in 2014 and 31 games as recent as 2016 with Triple-A Syracuse.

Taylor was as gracious and respectful as ever to his team and his chance to play in the big leagues after the crushing 9-8 Game 5 defeat.

“I didn’t set any personal goals coming into it, obviously,” Taylor said. “We wanted to win the series. It doesn’t even feel like a consolation prize right now. It was an up and down season for me. Grateful for the opportunity.”

This season, he hit .219 in April. Manager Dusty Baker wanted him to turn it around.

In May, he turned it up to an impressive .281. In June, he hit .299. He then missed a month of games from July 5 to Aug. 12 with an oblique strain. After hitting .222 in August, he bounced back to .283 in September. Then we all know what happened in October.

What is amazing to watch in Taylor’s maturation is his pitch selection. In May, Baker noticed how Taylor was being more selective.

Of course, his 137 strikeouts are an issue, but when he connects, it’s powerful. The 19 homers this season are a career-high.

And with Jayson Werth’s contract coming to an end, it makes sense that Taylor will be the left fielder next year, with Adam Eaton in center field and Bryce Harper in right field. Victor Robles could be the outfielder coming off the bench. It’s a question mark as well if they can get Howie Kendrick back after his two-year deal has wrapped up for 2016-2017, originally signed with the Dodgers. But one thing for sure, Taylor is here to stay thanks to his outstanding defense, power and ability to deliver the clutch hit in the biggest of games.

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