Michael Taylor collected four hits in eight at bats in the first two games of the Nationals' first-half ending three-game set against the Baltimore Orioles, then just one hit in six games over the next 23 at bats before Wednesday's series finale against the New York Mets in the nation's capital.
"For a young player, unfortunately that's part of it," Matt Williams told reporters after Taylor led the Nationals to a 4-3 win over the Mets, going two for five with three RBIs and a run scored in the eighth inning that capped off Washington's big comeback win over their divisional rivals.
"You're going to go through those stretches where it doesn't happen for you," Williams said. "But it doesn't mean that you don't keep trying, you don't keep working."
Taylor lined out and struck out in his first two at bats yesterday, so he was actually 1 for 25 before he was able to drive in the Nats' first run of the game with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the fourth for the only run Mets' rookie Noah Syndergaard allowed in five innings.
With runners on second and third and one out in the sixth, after an Ian Desmond single, a Matt den Dekker walk and a bunt by Jordan Zimmermann, Taylor struck out chasing a high 2-2 heater from right-hander Hansel Robles.
A groundout by Danny Espinosa ended that threat, and the Mets held on to their 3-1 lead through seven and a half before Desmond again, with a one-out walk, and den Dekker, with a line drive single, provided another opportunity.
There were two outs when Taylor stepped in, after a lineout to left by Tyler Moore, when a wild pitch from Bobby Parnell put both runners in scoring position, and the Nationals' 23-year-old outfielder worked the count full before hitting a 96 mph fastball through short for a two-run single that tied things up at 3-3.
Taylor then stole second and scored on an RBI double to left by Danny Espinosa, who lined a 1-0 fastball to left to bring the go-ahead run in.
It was an impressive, game-changing series of events for Taylor, starting with his line drive to left.
"For me, when he gets in those situations, he doesn't try to do too much," his manager said.
"He's not looking for a three-run homer, he's just looking for a base hit and he's just been able to improve this year, to feel his way through his first real stint in the big leagues. And he's played well."
Espinosa's double was the 28-year-old's 16th two-base hit of the season, his first hit in five at bats in the series finale and another sign of his improved approach at the plate.
"Two outs, runners in scoring position, low and hard back through the middle is key for us," Williams said.
"And if you're just a touch late, as long as it's low, then you have opportunity to hit a ball like he did, or hit a ball by the first baseman. The loopy swing doesn't get you anything unless you really get on it, so that's just good bat path and stuff he's been working on."
The Nationals took two of three from the Mets and finished the series with a 3.0 game lead in the NL East. So how big a win was it?
"It's a win for us," Williams said. "Just like any other one. And the fact that we get a chance to come back in a game like that shows that we don't give up and if we create opportunities for ourselves then we can come through."
The Nationals created plenty of opportunities, but went just 3 for 11 with runners in scoring position and 12 men left on base and still managed to win.
"If we don't have those eleven runners we can't strand them," Williams noted, "but that's a good sign for us that we've got guys on the basepaths. That's what we want."