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Nationals' Michael Taylor hits walk-off, three-run home run to beat Braves, 5-2

Washington Nationals' outfielder Michael Taylor hit a pinch hit, three-run, walk-off home run off Braves' right-hander Brandon Cunniff to give the Nats a 5-2 win over their NL East rivals from Atlanta.

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

After Michael Taylor hit a game-tying, two-run single in a July 22nd game against the New York Mets in the nation's capital, Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams talked to reporters about the 24-year-old outfielder's ability to stay calm in big at bats and come up with "clutch" hits.

"When he gets in those situations, he doesn't try to do too much," Williams 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."

"He just stayed through a ball and got enough of it certainly to hit it over the fence. But he's just been able to just stay within himself..." -Matt Williams on Michael Taylor's walk-off home run

Taylor got another big opportunity Friday night in Nationals Park, with runners on first and third and no one out in the tenth inning of a 2-2 game with the Atlanta Braves.

Taylor stepped to the plate against right-handed reliever Brandon Cunniff 28 for 84 (.337/.406/.518) with five doubles, two triples and two home runs with runners in scoring position this season and got all of a 1-0 slider that he sent out to left-center in Nationals Park for a three-run, walk-off home run that gave the Nats a big come-from-behind 5-2 victory.

Williams talked about Taylor's approach in big at bats again after the game-winning home run, which was his third with runners in scoring position this season and his 14th overall.

"I just think he understands himself," Williams said, "and what he can and can't do and not necessarily hitting balls out of the ballpark, but with runners in scoring position, he's been really good."

Bryce Harper hit an opposite field single off lefty Matt Marksberry to start the frame and took third base when Ryan Zimmerman singled to center off Cunniff before Taylor's pinch hit at bat.

"The inning set up well for him," Williams said. "I don't think it was a fastball, I think it was a breaking ball that he hit. So he just stayed through a ball and got enough of it certainly to hit it over the fence. But he's just been able to just stay within himself and get a base hit in those situations."

"That looked like a 150-grain, .30-06 coming off the bat right there. That guy right there, I tell you what, that's impressive." -Jonathan Papelbon on Michael Taylor's walk-off blast

Williams was asked if he thought it was a home run off the bat?

"I didn't think so," he said.

"When he first hit it I thought it was plenty deep enough, but he's got good power. Puts the head of the bat on the baseball, it goes a long way.

"Nice job of staying in the middle of the diamond, taking what they give you. He didn't pull off a ball and hit grounder. He stayed through it, nice swing."

Taylor has missed time recently after injuring his knee on a collision with the center field fence, but he was available to pinch hit and came through.

"We were trying to stay off him if we can to give him one more day," Williams explained.

"There was debate whether -- if the inning was different and he got on base -- whether he was actually going to run, so it didn't have to get to that thankfully."

Taylor's teammates were equally impressed with the rookie outfielder's power.

"I just think he's a ballplayer," Bryce Harper told reporters, after homering and scoring the winning run.

"He's a gamer. He wants to win every single game and he's truly a great player. I think everybody knows he's going to be an unbelievable player the older he gets and the more he plays and I'm excited for him and the way he's doing it and the way he's going about it right now."

"That boy has got some bat speed," Jonathan Papelbon told MASN's Ray Knight and Johnny Holliday in a post-game interview after earning the win with two scoreless innings in relief.

"That looked like a 150-grain, .30-06 coming off the bat right there. That guy right there, I tell you what, that's impressive. Especially coming off the bench that's not easy."

"I was just trying to get my pitch. I knew he was going to try to get me to chase something. Just a matter of being patient right there and thank the Lord, I got something to hit," Taylor told MASN's Dan Kolko.

The Nationals' win, combined with the Miami Marlins' walk-off win over the NL East-leading New York Mets in Marlins Park, left Washington 5.0 games back in the division with 28 games to play.