Taylor misplay leads to first inside-the-park grand slam in 21st century

by Jacob Emert

WASHINGTON – The sinking line drive kept on sinking, but center fielder Michael Taylor had already committed. Taylor laid out for the catch, but the ball skipped by and Aaron Altherr sprinted around the bases for the first inside-the-park grand slam in the MLB since 1999.

“I felt like I had a good beat on the ball,” Taylor said after the 8-2 loss to Philadelphia. “I thought I had a chance on it. I know in that situation you better catch the ball, and I wouldn’t have gone for it if I didn’t think I could.”

For Taylor, who has dazzled with his range for much of his rookie season, the alternative, and probably the smarter play, was to play the line drive off a hop and limit the damage to one run.

“Yeah, but he thinks he’s got a chance to catch it,” manager Matt Williams said. “Once he goes for it then there’s no turning back at that point.”

The grand slam was the first of two home runs Altherr hit on Friday. Starter Jordan Zimmermann allowed three home runs total in what was probably his last start as a National in Washington.

“That was a big play for us, and I felt like I let down the team and I let down Jordan,” Taylor said.

September 25: Phillies @ Nationals

Teams: Washington Nationals (78-73, -6.5 in NL East), Philadelphia Phillies (57-96, eliminated)

Streaks: Nationals: L3, Orioles L2

First pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET

Watch & Listen: MASN2 /106.7 The FAN

WSH Lineup: Rendon 2B, Escobar 3B, Harper RF, Werth LF, Robinson 1B, Desmond SS, Taylor CF, Ramos C, Zimmermann P.

PHI Lineup: Galvis SS, Altherr LF, Herrera CF, Ruf 1B, Asche 3B, Blanco 2B, Bogusevic RF, Rupp C, Eickhoff P

Transactions: None.

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JacobEmert.

September 24: Orioles at Nationals

Teams: Washington Nationals (78-73, -6.5 in NL East), Baltimore Orioles (75-76, -10.5 in AL East)

Streaks: Nationals: L2, Orioles W2

First pitch: 4:35 p.m.

Watch & Listen: MASN, MASN 2 / 105.7 The Fan, 106.7 The FAN

WSH Lineup: Rendon 2B, Escobar 3B, Harper RF, Werth LF, Robinson 1B, Desmond SS, Taylor CF, Ramos C, Roark P.

BAL Lineup: Parra CF, Machado 3B, Davis 1B, Pearce LF, Weiters C, Schoop 2B, Flaherty RF, Hardy SS, Wilson P

Transactions: None.

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JacobEmert.

September 23: Orioles at Nationals

Teams: Washington Nationals (78-72, -6.5 in NL East), Baltimore Orioles (74-76, -11.5 in AL East)

Streaks: Nationals: L1, Orioles W1

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.

Watch & Listen: MASN, MASN 2 / 105.7 The Fan, 106.7 The FAN

WSH Lineup: Rendon 2B, Escobar 3B, Harper RF, Werth LF, Robinson 1B, Desmond SS, Taylor CF, Ramos C, Scherzer P

BAL Lineup: Parra CF, Machado 3B, Davis 1B, Pearce LF, Wieters C, Schoop 2B, Flaherty RF, Hardy SS, Tillman P

Transactions: None.

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JacobEmert.

With pope in town, Nats could use blessing

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — Entering Tuesday’s action the Nationals were 6 ½ games behind the Mets in the National League East race with 13 games to go. With Pope Francis arriving in DC on Tuesday, Nationals manager Matt Williams was asked if he wanted the Pope to bless the Nationals. What was Williams’ response?

“I would like for us to win tonight’s game and we go from there,” Williams said.

Williams said he doesn’t expect Pope Francis to visit Nationals Park, “but he is the Pope, so you never know.” he said.

September 22: Orioles @ Nationals

Teams: Washington Nationals (77-71, -6.5 in NL East), Baltimore Orioles (73-76, -12.5 in AL East)

Streaks: Nationals: W3, Orioles L1

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.

Watch & Listen: MASN, MASN 2 / 105.7 The Fan, 106.7 The FAN

WSH Lineup: Rendon 2B,Escobar 3B, Harper RF, Werth LF, Robinson 1B, Desmond SS, Taylor CF, Lobaton C, Gonzalez P

BAL Lineup: Reimold LF, Machado 3B, Davis 1B, Pearce RF, Schoop 2B, Joseph C, Hardy SS, Lake CF, Jimenez P

Transactions: None.

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JacobEmert.

September 21: Orioles @ Nationals

Teams: Washington Nationals (77-71, -7.0 in NL East), Baltimore Orioles (73-76, -12.0 in AL East)

Streaks: Nationals: W3, Orioles L1

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.

Watch & Listen: MASN, MASN 2 / 105.7 The Fan, 106.7 The FAN

WSH Lineup: Rendon 2B,Escobar 3B, Harper RF, Werth LF, Robinson 1B, Desmond SS, Taylor CF, Lobaton C, Gonzalez P

BAL Lineup: Reimold LF, Machado 3B, Davis 1B, Pearce RF, Schoop 2B, Joseph C, Hardy SS, Lake CF, Jimenez P

Transactions: None.

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JacobEmert.

Moore trying to take advantage of playing time

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON – Nationals first baseman Tyler Moore doesn’t play often, but he took advantage of the playing time he received the last two games against the Marlins.

Starting because of the oblique injury to Ryan Zimmerman, Moore went 3-for-8, with two home runs and four RBIs.

“It’s great to help these guys a little bit, get a couple of knocks and kind of get things going,” Moore said.

Moore has been in and out of the Major Leagues the last three years. It’s one of the reasons he is out of Minor League options. When he is with the Major League team, playing time is scarce. Don’t look for Moore to complain about that, though.

“There are some things you can’t control,” Moore said. “One thing you can control is the attitude. You just try to come every day and be a light to this locker room, keep my mouth shut and just do my work. That’s what they need from a bench guy.”

September 20: Marlins @ Nationals

Teams: Washington Nationals (77-71, -7.0 in NL East), Miami Marlins (64-85, -19.5 in NL East)

Streaks: Nationals: W2, Marlins L2

First pitch: 1:35 pm ET

Watch & Listen: MASN / 106.7 The FAN

WSH Lineup: Taylor CF, Escobar 3B, Harper RF, Werth LF, Desmond SS, Ramos C, Moore 3B, Turner 2B, Strasburg RHP

MIA Lineup: Gordon 2B, Ichiro RF, Yelich LF, Bour 1B, Ozuna CF, Dietrich 3B, Rojas SS, Tellis C, Nicolino LHP

Transactions: None.

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JacobEmert.

Clint Robinson doesn’t mind facing aces

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON — In the bottom of the second inning of Friday’s 5-4 win over the Marlins, the Nationals’ Clint Robinson walloped a Jose Fernandez fastball into the second deck of the right-field seats at Nats Park.

The solo shot continued an amazing trend for Robinson, who continually has risen to the challenge when facing the toughest competition this season. Entering 2015, the 30-year-old had tallied a total of 14 Major League plate appearances, three hits and no home runs, but after making the Nats’ roster as a longshot, check out his success against some of the top starting pitchers in the league:

  • Madison Bumgarner* (SF) …. 2-for-3, 2B
  • Gerrit Cole (PIT) ……………. 1-for-3, 2B
  • Jacob deGrom (NYM) ……… 1-for-5, RBI
  • Zack Greinke (LAD) ………… 3-for-6
  • Matt Harvey (NYM) ………… 3-for-8, 2B, BB, 3 RBI
  • Jose Fernandez (MIA) …….. 2-for-3, HR, RBI
  • Clayton Kershaw* (LAD) …… 1-for-3
  • Francisco Liriano* (PIT) ……. 1-for-2, 2B, BB
  • Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) …….1-for-3

*Left-handed pitcher (Robinson bats lefty)

Totals: 15-for-36 (.417) with 2 BB, 4 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI

Opponents have hit .241 against Cole, which ranked 48th in the Majors among starters with at least 45 innings, entering Friday. The other eight pitchers all had opponents averages of .227 or below, ranking in the top 21.

Obviously, Robinson’s numbers here are a small sample size, though they include most of his encounters with upper-level starters. But while it doesn’t mean that Robinson has some special talent for hitting aces, it’s still impressive what he has accomplished against them, given his limited big league experience.

“I do the same thing I do no matter who’s on the mound,” he said. “Most of the time those top-of-the rotation guys, they’re strike throwers, so that’s always good when you get them in the strike zone and do something with it. Just try to approach every at-bat the same, go up there and not do too much and let whatever happens once you hit the ball happen. There’s nothing really special about it.”

Nats manager Matt Williams pointed to Friday’s home run, which came on a 94-mph fastball, as an example of how Robinson has succeeded in those spots.

“I just think it’s a short swing,” Williams said. “So somebody like Jose, if he throws you a fastball, he’s going to provide all the power you need, and a short, level, compact swing will do the trick. He didn’t swing hard at that ball, and it went in the upper deck.”

And it’s not like Robinson has only hit against top-of-the-rotation starters. He’s been a surprisingly solid contributor for the Nats all season, especially since Ryan Zimmerman’s first disabled-list stint in June opened up some regular playing time.

While Robinson’s numbers as a pinch-hitter are modest, he is batting .299/.386/.457 with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 64 starts.

Not bad for a 30-year-old rookie.

Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

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