Michael Taylor's grand slam helps send Nationals to Game 5

Michael Taylor hasn't exactly been a quick study during his professional baseball career.

But some quick studying Wednesday during the Nationals' 5-0 win against the Cubs in Game 4 of the National League Division Series paid off in ways the Nationals center fielder couldn't have fathomed 7 1/2 years ago.

Taylor's improbable grand slam, the one that defied the wind to reach the basket in right field at Wrigley Field, was preceded by a quick peek at some video of Cubs closer Wade Davis.

The same Davis who never had allowed so much as a three-run home run as a reliever, nor a grand slam even once. The same Davis whose 0.79 ERA in the postseason was second only to Mariano Rivera all-time among those with at least 30 innings pitched.

Davis, who had allowed just one postseason home run in 341/3 innings, entered the game with the bases full of Nationals. Carl Edwards Jr. had just walked two after Jon Lester had walked one.

Edwards threw ball one to Taylor before he was removed by Cubs manager Joe Maddon.

"I tried to start the at-bat over," Taylor said. "Watched a little video before I went out there … felt good once I stepped back in."

He didn't feel anything once the ball cleared the wall to give the Nationals a five-run lead, all but assuring them of a deciding Game 5 in Washington on Thursday.

"I was kind of numb running around the bases," Taylor said. "I didn't think it was going to get out the way the wind was blowing in."

Those four runs, charged to three Cubs pitchers, were unnecessary because of Stephen Strasburg's 12-strikeout dominance of the Cubs. But they were more than welcomed by the Nationals.

Taylor was drafted as a shortstop by the Nationals in the sixth round in 2009. He hit just .125 and committed 21 errors in 38 games in the Gulf Coast League in 2010.

He began last season as a fourth outfielder and had a midseason stint in Triple A. He began this season as Adam Eaton's backup.

Taylor's average lulled around .200 for most of that first month this year. But not long after taking over for Eaton, whose season ended April 28 when he tore the ACL in his left knee, did Taylor's season begin to take off. He batted .280 with all 19 of his home runs after that, including an inside-the-park grand slam against the Phillies on Sept. 8. He also played 12 more games in the minor leagues on a rehab stint while dealing with a strained right oblique.

"He does all the little things," Strasburg said. "To see him … make it to the big leagues, and deal with the ups and downs and … hit a grand slam like that, that's pretty cool."

pskrbina@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribSkrbina

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