- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Washington Nationals’ bats have cooled off considerably since their impressive month of May, with veterans like Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman experiencing uncharacteristic struggles.

Young outfielder Michael A. Taylor, meanwhile, entered Sunday’s series finale against the Chicago Cubs with an impressive .292 batting average in the team’s past 10 games. He also lead the team with six RBI over that same span.

Taylor’s season hasn’t been without struggles at the plate, however. Entering Sunday’s game, his 49 strikeouts were tied with Bryce Harper for second-most on the team, even though Taylor had 103 fewer plate appearances. His .235 batting average this season isn’t as high as he would like, either.

Still, the 24-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has shown marked improvement from his 2014 rookie season and has been rewarded accordingly with more opportunities to impact games. In large part because of injuries, Taylor has more than tripled his number of plate appearances from a season ago, and the Nationals are barely one-third of the way through the regular season.

“It’s definitely nice anytime you get to go out there and play,” Taylor said Sunday. “I definitely feel more comfortable this year compared to last year and right now compared to the beginning of this season.”

Batting woes have spread for the Nationals in recent weeks, yet Taylor has actually improved at the plate during the same period. Despite the fact that his veteran teammates are, for the most part, either slumping or injured, Taylor credits their presence as one of the reasons why the team’s struggles haven’t affected his individual performance.

“We have a strong veteran presence here so, you know, things like that are something that I don’t have to worry about too much, which is nice,” Taylor said. “I can just go out there and play the game and, you know, we have guys like [Ian] Desmond and [Jayson] Werth and Span and Zimmerman. I could keep going. There’s a ton of guys that keep everybody in the game from panicking when things aren’t going our way, so I kind of just try to do what I can do and let them take care of the big stuff like that.”

Taylor appears to have stemmed the strikeouts, at least for now, with just one in nine plate appearances before Sunday’s game. However, he struck out six times in the eight plate appearances before that.

“I definitely struggled for a while, just wasn’t seeing the ball well, My timing was a little off,” Taylor said. “I worked in the cage and worked with [hitting coach Rick Schu], and I feel much better now so I’m grateful for that and, you know, we’ll see what happens going forward.”

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