- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ATLANTA — Michael A. Taylor had three interesting days in Atlanta.

Monday, the Washington Nationals’ rookie center fielder met Hank Aaron. Tuesday, the Nationals clinched the National League East division title. Wednesday, he was making a start and part of a look at a trio of the young Nationals.

Taylor made his major league debut when he was called up Aug. 10, less than a week after being promoted to Triple-A Syracuse. He hit .315 with 22 homers, 63 RBI and 35 stolen bases for Double-A Harrisburg and represented the Nationals in the Futures Game before being moved to Triple A.

He was sent back down, then recalled Sept. 6. Thanks to Wednesday’s game, he now has more big league at-bats than years on earth. Taylor, 23, has 24 at-bats this season. He had just one at-bat in September prior to Wednesday night.

It’s important for him to get at-bats,” manager Matt Williams said. “In a situation like tonight, we want to make sure we get him in there. Let him play his natural position, which is center field. It wasn’t a great night for him (Taylor struck out three times). But, it’s wonderful experience. He’ll take that moving forward and it will be useful for him.”

Taylor was 1-for-4 Wednesday night in the Nationals’ 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

The lone run came from a 415-foot home run by another of the young players in the Nationals’ dugout as the season winds down. Steven Souza Jr. hit his first major league home run in the fifth inning. Souza, 25, had just 15 at-bats, and one hit, coming into Wednesday night.

“A moment you’ll never forget,” Souza said of his homer.

His first major league home run ball was retrieved and made its way into his travel bag. He gave the ball from his first career hit to his parents. This one will go to one of his favorite hitting coaches. Though he has just one career home run, Souza has learned diplomacy. He declined to specify which hitting coach he’ll give the ball to.

Williams hit his first major league home run two years before Souza was born. April 19, 1987, a 21-year-old Williams connected off Atlanta Braves pitcher Jeff Dedmon in San Francisco. Williams said he still has the ball displayed prominently.

“Those are memories you don’t forget,” Williams said. “You play your whole life in anticipation of doing something like that, in hope of doing something like that. It’s nice to see.”

On what, in all, was a lost night for the Nationals after they chose to rest the regulars and botched a sixth-inning hard ground ball to the point three runs scored, Blake Treinen was stellar in a spot start.

Treinen was pushed onto the mound in place of Gio Gonzalez. The Nationals will return to their normal rotation Thursday, with Gonzalez starting in Miami to be followed by Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmerman, according to Williams.

Just more than five months after his big league debut, which came at Turner Field, Treinen had his best outing of the season: five innings, three hits, no runs, and three strikeouts.

He is likely to be an option to start Sept. 26 when the Nationals play a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins.

Taylor started the season in Double-A Harrisburg and never expected to be in the Nationals’ clubhouse in late September. Souza was named the International League MVP after dominating at Triple-A Syracuse. Treinen had been up, down, started and relieved since the start of the season. Wednesday night in Atlanta, they all got a look.

“It’s good experience for them being young players, young promising players to be here and be part of it,” Williams said.

• Todd Dybas can be reached at tdybas@washingtontimes.com.

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