Since Adam Eaton returned to the Washington Nationals on June 9th, after a DL stint for an injured ankle which required surgery, Michael A. Taylor has appeared in 42 games, though he’s started just 22 times. In spite of the sporadic appearances as a starter, the 27-year-old outfielder had managed to put up a .296/.361/.357 line with four doubles and a triple in 109 plate appearances over that stretch.
Since Juan Soto and Bryce Harper are going to be in the lineup every day, when healthy, the choice has come down to Eaton vs Taylor most days. With Harper out, after taking a pitch to the right leg on Wednesday, they were both in the lineup on Thursday, for the Nationals’ 6-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.
Taylor connected for his first home run since June 2nd, a span of 131 PAs, putting the Nats up 3-1 before they added to their lead with a run in the sixth and two more in the eighth.
It was Taylor’s 6th in 344 PAs to that point this season, after the Nationals’ center fielder hit 19 in 432 PAs in something of a breakout campaign in 2017.
Come for the tater, stay for the diving catch. pic.twitter.com/IWouQoLDxu— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 9, 2018
Taylor also made a fairly impressive diving catch in left-center in the top of the sixth inning, as well, robbing Kurt Suzuki of a potential extra-base hit and stranding a runner.
“Michael was Michael out there,” Davey Martinez said after the win.
“I’ve said this before, he’s a Gold Glover. But I’m proud of all the guys. They played hard today. Like I said, we got the lead, we kept the lead, and it was a lot of fun.”
Asked about Taylor’s contributions, and the home run, Martinez said it was “Huge.”
“Like I said, he had a good day. We go to Chicago now, and they’ve got a couple lefties, so I’m sure he’s going to get an opportunity to play as well.”
Eaton started the day 3 for 23 (.130/.231/.130) vs lefties this season (with a .277/.351/.343 line vs lefties in his career) and a .327/.413/.436 line vs right-handers on the year. He K’d swinging in his only at bat against a left-hander in the win.
Taylor began the day with a .238/.306/.360 line vs righties and a .247/.305/.402 line against left-handed pitchers this season.
“I love Michael Taylor, I’ve said it before,” Martinez continued. “Got to find ways to get him in there, it’s tough, but he’s a really good player.”
Taylor went 1 for 4 overall on the day, with a run scored and a strikeout. He finished the day with a .241/.305/.381 line, 20 doubles, three triples, six homers, 24 stolen bases, 28 walks, and 96 Ks in 346 PAs on the season.
Eaton, who’d put up a .295/.386/.349 in 44 games, 37 starts, and 171 PAs since returning to the lineup on June 9th going into the finale with the Braves, went 1 for 5 with a run scored and a K in the win over Atlanta, leaving him with a .295/.386/.349 line, eight doubles, three home runs, three stolen bases, 19 walks, and 34 Ks in 210 PAs overall this season.
Eaton also made a strong throw in from right to cut Freddie Freeman down at the plate in the third, fielding a low, one-hop line drive off Nick Markakis’s bat and throwing a one-hop strike to the third base side of home, making it easy for catcher Matt Wieters to get the out.
showing off the pic.twitter.com/Ie64bb4hFJ— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 9, 2018
Wieters waited on Freeman and applied the tag for the final out of the inning in what was a 1-0 game in the Braves’ favor at that point.
“It was a perfect throw,” Martinez said of the play at the plate.
“Eaton came out and got the ball as quick as he could, and fired a perfect throw, and Matty stayed down and was able to put the tag on on Freeman, so all-around good day.”
Taylor and Eaton both managed to hit the opposing pitchers with comebackers as well, with Taylor’s knocking starter Anibal Sanchez out of the game, though Sanchez did manage to field the ball after taking it off the calf, getting the out.
Eaton’s only caught right-hander Wes Parsons on the cleat/foot, leading to a delay while the Braves’ trainers checked him out, but he stayed in the game. Eaton reached first safely with the ball shooting out into left field off the pitcher’s foot.
“I made a joke,” Martinez said in his post game interview.
“I told Adam Eaton, I said, ‘I guess Michael Taylor is stronger than you, because he knocked the pitcher out but you didn’t. So Eaton says, ‘Well I got a hit.’”