Jun 5, 2015, 11:03 AM EDT
It was all setting up for a Hollywood-esque ending for Anthony Rendon in his first game back with the Nationals.
The 24-year-old infielder, who made his long-awaited 2015 debut Thursday night after months rehabbing from knee and oblique injuries, stood at the plate in bottom of the ninth inning with two on and two out as his team was trailing 2-1 to the Chicago Cubs. The man who led the Nats in extra-base hits in 2014 was just one big knock away from sending the fans who braved the nearly two-hour delayed start to the game home happy.
But at the plate is where he would stay, as the rally ended with Clint Robinson getting picked off at first base, handing the Nats their sixth loss in seven games.
“That’s baseball,” Rendon said with a shrug afterward.
Despite the outcome, the Nats are happy to have Rendon back, as his return draws them closer to having the balanced lineup they envisioned back in spring training. And if Thursday night was any indication, he may have already shaken off the rust; he finished the game 2-for-4, hitting an opposite field single in his first at-bat and later doubling to set up the team’s only run of the night in the sixth inning.
“I felt alright,” he said of his first at-bat in the majors since last October. “I tried to calm myself down a little bit more than usual. Just tried to relax, tried not to do too much. Keep it simple and try put the barrel on it.”
Now that Rendon’s back in the fold, he’ll try to build on his breakout 2014 campaign in which he hit .287 with 21 home runs and 83 RBI, finishing fifth in the NL MVP voting.
“He’s a great hitter,” Bryce Harper said. “I think everybody knows that. He’s going to do what he does and he’s going to hit his doubles and his balls through the hole and hit homers, too. He’s going to get on base and help us definitely. We’re excited to have him back.”
“It’s awesome,” left starter Gio Gonzalez added. “He’s unbelievable and it’s great to see him back in the lineup finally.”
The Nats missed more than just Rendon’s bat; they value his versatility in the field, something that was on display almost immediately upon his return. After starting the game at second base, he had to move to what many consider his natural position at third when Yunel Escobar came out with a wrist injury.
“[It was like] 2013 all over again,” Rendon said of the switch. “It’s good though. I guess I’m fortunate enough to be able to move position around like that, so I guess that’s a good thing.”
It was just one game — and a loss, at that — but the Nats are hoping that Rendon’s presence, both in the field and at the plate, can help spark a club looking to get hot again.
“It was just awesome to be back,” he said. “A good feeling.”
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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