Michael A. Taylor got the first shot to move the runner on second base in extras over in the bottom 10th inning last night, after Washington Nationals’ righty Kyle Finnegan stranded a runner at third in the top of the inning in a 7-7 game.
Taylor tried to bunt pinch runner Josh Harrison over to third to set up a walk-off winner in the second of four with the Atlanta Braves in the nation’s capital, but the 29-year-old fell behind 0-2 after fouling one off and then missing a second attempt to get one down, and he popped a two-strike pitch from Mark Melancon up to the pitcher for the first out of the frame before Yan Gomes and Luis García hit back-to-back groundouts that sent the game into the 11th.
If he had another shot to get that bunt down, what would he have done differently?
“I think I would have put it down in play and get the guy over,” Taylor deadpanned when he spoke to reporters after what ended up an 8-7 win for the home team.
More seriously, he said, “the ball was kind of just — Melancon’s got a good cutter and some good life on his pitch. Just trying to get to the top of it, honestly, it just kind of like takes off on you a little bit. So ... just starting at the top and working my way down just to make sure that I get the ball on the ground.”
He got another opportunity to win the game, after Finnegan worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the 11th, and James Bourque got an inning-ending double play out of Nick Markakis after issuing two walks that loaded the bases in the top of the 12th.
Taylor stepped to the plate with Adam Eaton on third and Juan Soto at first, and hit an 0-2 fastball to right for a walk-off single.
“I’ve been working really hard on my two-strike approach,” Taylor said of the hit he managed to get off lefty Grant Dayton to win it. “Once I got to two strikes, I was really trying to slow it down, back the ball up. I know he’s got a great fastball.
“But at the same time trying to protect against any breaking ball or anything like that in the dirt, so just trying to see the pitch as long as I can.”
When he saw it fall in, Taylor said, he was just happy that it was over, 4 hours & 48 minutes after the game started. His reaction to seeing it reach the outfield grass?
“Definitely relief,” Taylor said. “Off the bat — I was just trying to — or on the pitch I was just trying to see it deep and when I looked up and saw that it was going to get over, just a sigh of relief that that marathon was over.”
“It was a great at bat,” Manager Davey Martinez said. “I mean ... he stayed inside the ball, put the ball in play.
“He didn’t try to do too much and he got the game-winning hit. It was a really good at bat.”
It was the first walk-off win of this COVID campaign for the Nationals, so they tried to really celebrate responsibly (unsuccessfully according to Taylor).
“We probably broke some protocol right there,” Taylor said, “but you know, you do the best you can in an exciting moment like that. I think emotions take over a little bit. Have to stay six feet away in a situation like that. But we still enjoy the moment and do the best we can to follow protocol.”
When you win in the end, it’s a little easier to forget why had to win it that way, so blowing a 5-0 lead for the second day in a row kind of gets lost in the end. Kind of.
“A win is a win is a win. When you battle like we did tonight it was good to come out on top. I’m proud of the boys,” Martinez said.