The Nationals (26-21) used four home runs to pound the Padres 10-2 in the series opener, but Tuesday night’s 2-1 win required a walk-off double from struggling center fielder Michael A. Taylor in the bottom of the ninth.
Taylor’s hit scored rookie Juan Soto, who drew his third walk of the game leading off the ninth and advanced to second on a ground out. It was a big hit for Washington and for Taylor, who is hitting .190 on the season.
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“Like a weight was being lifted off,” Taylor told MLB.com after winning an eight-pitch battle with San Diego reliever Matt Strahm. “It’s been a rough stretch for me. I took a deep breath. I’ve been waiting to have something turn for me.”
Taylor also threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate with a perfect throw in the sixth to nab Jose Pirela.
“I’m just looking to do anything I can — at the plate, on the bases — to do something positive for the team,” he told MASN.com. “It doesn’t raise my average or anything like that, but it definitely feels good.”
Bryce Harper hit his NL-leading 15th home run for the Nationals, who are three games behind Atlanta in the NL East.
Washington’s Jeremy Hellickson allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings. He has now allowed two earned runs or fewer in six of his seven starts.
Nationals starting pitchers have now gone 22 straight starts allowing three earned runs or fewer. Over that time, the rotation owns a 10-3 record and a 2.20 ERA.
San Diego (20-30) got a strong effort from rookie Eric Lauer, who allowed one run in six innings, and a solo home run from Franchy Cordero. Lauer, who got ahead of 15 of the 25 batters he faced — allowed six hits, struck out seven and walked two.
“I thought hands down his best outing,” manager Andy Green told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Really encouraged. He did absolutely everything he could to help us win a baseball game.”
Tyson Ross (3-3, 3.35) will try to help San Diego avert the sweep.
Washington, which needs a pitcher following Saturday’s doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers, hasn’t named a starter though top pitching prospect, right-hander Erick Fedde would be on schedule if he is promoted from Triple-A Syracuse.
Fedde was 0-1 with a 9.39 ERA in three starts for Washington in 2017, none against the Padres.
Ross gave up five runs on six hits over six innings in a loss to the Nationals on May 8.
Since that time, Ross has allowed three runs over 12 innings in two starts. Against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday he grinded out a win after giving up two runs on five hits and four walks over six innings.
“It wasn’t his best night,” Green told MLB.com. “But it was good enough.”
Ross is 2-2 with a 5.34 ERA in seven games (four starts) versus Washington.