(ABC)–Center fielder Michael Taylor hasn’t had many good days this season. He hopes Tuesday night’s performance is a sign of things to come.
Taylor’s one-out double in the ninth scored 19-year-old Juan Soto with the game-winning run in Washington’s 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres. He also threw out a runner at the plate for the final out in the sixth inning with the score 1-1.
“So happy for him,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said of Taylor, who entered batting .189. “He’s been working diligently to get his swing right. Before that, the throw he made home, incredible. This was Michael’s day and I’m proud of him.”
Bryce Harper hit his NL-leading 15th home run of the season for Washington, which has won two straight after getting swept in a three-game series at home by the Dodgers.
San Diego’s defense provided openings for Washington in the ninth.
Soto, the youngest player in the majors, reached base in all four at-bats in his second career start. He led off the ninth with his third walk. Wilmer Difo followed with a groundout, which third baseman Cory Spangenberg bobbled, allowing Soto to reach second.
Before Taylor’s hit, he sent a pop-up into foul territory that first baseman Eric Hosmer could not track down. Then Taylor, who entering the ninth was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts while facing mostly fastballs, sent a change-up from Matt Strahm (0-2) off the center-field wall.
“Wrong pitch,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “(Strahm) shook the catcher three times to get to that pitch.
Sean Doolittle (2-2) struck out the side in the ninth.
Jeremy Hellickson held San Diego to one run and five hits over 5 1/3 innings. Franchy Cordero homered for the Padres.
Hellickson threw one pitch after Jose Pirela’s one-out double in the sixth before exiting with a blister.
Reliever Wander Suero replaced Hellickson and recorded one out before surrendering Franmil Reyes’ single to center. Catcher Pedro Severino fielded Taylor’s throw and tagged Pirela at the plate, but the runner was initially ruled safe. Washington challenged the play and replay overturned the call.
“It’s two different sides of the ball. I want to go out there and do whatever I can to help the team. Almost even more so when you’re struggling at the plate,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t raise my average or anything, but it definitely feels good.”
Harper’s blast, his second in two games, went an estimated 433 feet to straightaway center. It was the only run allowed by Padres starter Eric Lauer over six innings.
Lauer, making his sixth career start, scattered six hits and struck out seven.
“I thought hands down it was his best outing,” Green said. “I’m really encouraged.”