Taylor's torrid spring continues (Nationals beat Cards 8-2)

NATIONALS QUICK WRAP

Score: Nationals 8, Cardinals 2

Recap: Picking up right where rotation mate Stephen Strasburg left off Wednesday night against the Yankees, Max Scherzer dominated the Cardinals this afternoon, striking out nine over five innings. Scherzer allowed a pair of first-inning runs, but both were unearned after Trea Turner was charged with a fielding error. Combine Strasburg and Scherzer's pitching lines over the last 24 hours, and you end up with: 10 IP, 9 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 18 K. And just as was the case Wednesday night, the Nationals lineup supplied its starter with plenty of run support. Michael A. Taylor continued his torrid spring with a two-run homer and a two-run double. Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon added RBI doubles of their own, helping knock St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright from the game in the bottom of the fifth.

Need to know: Turner's offensive game might be good enough for the majors right now. The question is whether defensively he's good enough to play shortstop every day. The issue was apparent in the top of the first inning today, when Turner couldn't make a backhanded play on Kolten Wong's sharp grounder to his right. The play wasn't necessarily an easy one, but it was ruled an error because Turner had time to get his glove on the ball. Minutes later, he couldn't make a diving stop of Tommy Pham's liner to his left, a two-run single. Turner by no means is a below-average defender; he can hold his own in the field. Danny Espinosa, however, is an elite defensive shortstop. And though his offensive performance leaves plenty to be desired, you have to wonder if, right now, the Nationals will prioritize defense over offense at that position.

On deck: Friday, vs. Marlins in Jupiter, 7:05 p.m.
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VIERA, Fla. - They look like slow-pitch softball stats, but Michael A. Taylor most definitely is playing hardball this spring.

And the longer he keeps this up, the more the Nationals have to figure out how exactly they're going to get the young outfielder consistent at-bats this season.

Taylor kept up his torrid spring this afternoon, ripping a two-run double off Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright and then launching a two-run homer off reliever Seth Maness to lead the Nationals' latest offensive onslaught.

taylor-blue-swing-walk-off-sidebar.jpgWith those two hits, Taylor upped his Grapefruit League batting average to an even .500 (18-for-36), his slugging percentage to a stout .944 (34 total bases in those 36 at-bats).

The 24-year-old outfielder has been an offensive force throughout camp, putting pressure on manager Dusty Baker to find him playing time among an outfield that already has three established, veteran starters in Jayson Werth, Ben Revere and Bryce Harper.

Baker, who has offered high praise for Taylor over and over the last month, has insisted Taylor won't waste away on the Nationals bench. The 66-year-old manager plans to give Werth and Revere regular days off, and even Harper will sit at times when he's still healthy enough to play.

The Nationals do want Taylor to continue to refine his swing and most notably cut down on his strikeouts. He has nine so far this spring, a 24.3 percent rate the club certainly would like to see reduced.

That said, Taylor's massive production has more than made up for his occasional swing-and-miss. His two-run double in the fourth was ripped down the left-field line, his fourth of the spring. Only one inning later, he hit his fourth homer of the spring, all of them hit the other way to right field.

Observations and quotes from the Nats' 8-2 victory
Baker may not define bullpen roles until after ope...
 

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