Baseball is hard. Major leaguers can often convince the novice observer to the contrary, but every once in a while the game even humbles one of them. That's what happened to Washington Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
The 25 year old led off and started in center field for the Nationals. He began the game by striking out swinging against Dodgers lefty Julio Urias. He came up again in the top of the second, immediately after a double by pitcher Joe Ross that gave Washington a 2-1 lead. Taylor struck out swinging again. Urias got him again in the top of the fifth, and reliever Casey Fien bested him in the seventh. Taylor had one last chance to salvage his night in the ninth against Pedro Baez—and he struck out swinging for the fifth time.
Taylor is the first player this season to strike out five times in a game and earn the "platinum sombrero." He's also just the second National to do so since the team relocated. (Bryce Harper fanned five times in a 2012 game, but that contest went 14 innings and Harper had seven at-bats.)
But it got worse.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth and Howie Kendrick standing on first base, Yasiel Puig smacked a Shawn Kelley pitch on the ground past shortstop Danny Espinosa. The ball dribbled into center field, where Taylor charged it. But he lifted his glove too early and the ball went right under it, rolling all the way to the wall. Jayson Werth eventually picked it up and fired it in, but the Nationals couldn't recover. Puig, a very fast man, zipped all the way around the bases and dove home with the winning run.
It's important to remember that Taylor is a million times better than this. He's already been in the Majors for a couple years, and in recent weeks has been splitting time in center field with Ben Revere. It's worth noting that he went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers Sunday in San Diego (all of two games before this performance). And to his credit, he stood by his locker after the game and answered every question he was asked.
Taylor should bounce back from this...and the Nationals will need him to. They've lost five straight, with Wednesday's loss cementing a sweep at the hands of the Dodgers. Their first chance to pick it back up will be Friday in Milwaukee.