Taylor, Robinson make most of starting opportunity

Michael A. Taylor was supposed to bat seventh, not second. Clint Robinson wasn't supposed to be batting anything, unless the situation called for a pinch-hitter late in last night's game.

Funny how these things work sometimes, because wouldn't you know the two biggest offensive stars of the Nationals' 5-1 victory over the Pirates happened to be named Michael A. Taylor and Clint Robinson?

Robinson recorded two hits against left-hander Francisco Liriano and drove in the Nationals' first run of the game, while Taylor put the finishing touches on the win with a two-run homer in the seventh.


For Robinson, this performance came in particularly unexpected fashion. With Liriano on the mound for Pittsburgh, manager Dusty Baker planned to start Daniel Murphy at first base (making room for Trea Turner to start at second base). But when Murphy was scratched due to a sore hamstring, Robinson was thrust back into the lineup, albeit in the eighth spot given the lefty-on-lefty matchup.

Anyone who knows Robinson knows he wasn't fazed in the least by the last-minute start or his unconventional place in the lineup.

"I prepare the same way every day, whether I'm starting or going to be on the bench," he said. "Always stay ready, that's kind of a bench guy's job. Wasn't really a big deal."

Nor was facing a tough lefty like Liriano. Perhaps conventional wisdom suggests a big left-handed batter like Robinson struggles against southpaws, but his track record (albeit in limited action) suggests otherwise. He's now batting .380 (19-for-50) against lefties in his major league career after going 2-for-3 against Liriano.

"Do the same thing I do against righty pitching: Get them to throw it over the plate and try to put the barrel on it," Robinson said. "Don't make it too hard. Keep it simple and put the barrel on the baseball."

Taylor was in the starting lineup all along, though he was supposed to hit seventh in Baker's original batting order, only to get bumped all the way up to second after Murphy was scratched.

The young center fielder has struggled this season when hitting out of the leadoff spot, but he tried to take the same approach last night that has worked for him in the past, regardless of his place on the lineup card.

"I try my best to do the same," he said. "Leading off, it's a little different. You try to set the table for guys. For me, I'm an aggressive hitter. So I have to go up there ready to hit."

Taylor managed to be patient enough to take two balls from Pirates reliever Neftali Feliz in the bottom of the seventh. Then he pounced on the right-hander's 2-0 pitch, driving it to right-center and over the fence for his seventh homer of the season.

It was an encouraging start to the second half of what to date has been a frustrating year for Taylor.

"I took the time off (during the All-Star break) and just relaxed," he said. "I came in yesterday. We had our practice and I took probably a few more swings than I normally would. I felt pretty good. For me, it's just slowing things down. Maybe the time off helped a little bit."

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