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Rendon springs to life with big night

Aug 23, 2015, 12:04 AM EST

AP

Given his lack of production — shoot, given his lack of games on the active roster — this season, it’s been easy to forget about Anthony Rendon and how good he was for the Nationals last year and how good he still can be for them the rest of this year.

The young man who finished fifth in NL MVP voting last fall has played in only 42 games this season, derailed by three separate injuries. And when he has played, he rarely has resembled the guy who impressed so many in 2014, entering Saturday night’s game against the Brewers sporting a .240 batting average, one homer and seven RBI for the year.

Through it all, Rendon has tried to maintain his trademark even keel, while teammates maintained confidence in his ability to flip the switch at some point.

“I mean, he’s Tony Rendon,” left fielder Jayson Werth said. “He’s one of the guys. Everybody believes in him. We know the type of player he is. He showed it last year. It’s just a matter of time before he breaks out.”

That breakout, at least for one game, came Saturday during the Nationals’ 6-1 victory. Rendon stepped to the plate four times and reached base four times. He homered. He doubled. He drove in two runs. He walked twice. He stole a base. He even made the defensive play of the night, diving to his left to snag Jean Segura’s line drive with two outs in the ninth to cap the Nats’ much-needed win.

All this after a brutal 23-game stretch for Rendon, who since returning from his latest injury (a strained quadriceps muscle) was hitting .200 with a .274 on-base percentage, .271 slugging percentage, one homer and two RBI.

This performance may have felt like a surprise to the outside observer, but those around Rendon every day have been expecting something like this.

“He hasn’t had that crispness to his swing as of yet,” manager Matt Williams said about 2 1/2 hours before first pitch. “That can all start tonight. We hope it does.”

It did, in a big way. And the key to it all happening, as far as Rendon was concerned?

“I didn’t change a thing,” he said. “That’s the funny part.”

Players in slumps tinker with their swings all the time. They adjust their stance. They hold their bat in a different position. They alter their leg kick. Anything to get themselves back on track.

Rendon, though, fought the urge to do that and stuck with what has always worked for him. And for the first time in a long time, the results finally matched the process.

“Of course whenever you’re not doing your best at something, you want to look for a way out,” he said. “But you’ve got to stay patient.”

Patience was the key to Rendon’s first two plate appearances Saturday night, each resulting in a walk drawn against Brewers rookie right-hander Taylor Jungmann. Once he finally got a good pitch to hit in the bottom of the fourth, Rendon didn’t squander the opportunity. He laced a double down the left-field line, bringing Michael Taylor home and nearly bringing Werth all the way home from first base (he was narrowly tagged out to end the inning).

Players often say it can take as many as 100 major-league at-bats to feel normal coming out of spring training or coming off the DL. Rendon now has 99 plate appearances since returning from his most recent injury. Perhaps he’s just now feeling comfortable and Saturday night’s performance was just the beginning for one of the Nationals’ most important players.

“It’s tough when you’re out and then you get a short rehab assignment and then you basically go through spring training up here,” Werth said. “I’ve done it twice now this season. It’s not surprising. Very few times you see guys with very little at-bats produce. It’s just tough.”

“I think it’s important to remember his season’s been a little different this year,” Taylor added. “He missed spring training and has kind of gone back and forth. It’s tough, but I think he’s going to get rolling here pretty soon.”

  1. 3on2out - Aug 23, 2015 at 3:25 AM

    I know it was mentioned in the previous thread, but his diving catch to end the game looked identical to the play he made in spring training that put him on the DL in the first place. Not a happy memory but I assume all is well in Tony Twobagland

    • Candide - Aug 23, 2015 at 7:58 AM

      He looked like he might have had the wind knocked out of him a little as he got up, but seemed okay walking off the field.

      Nice to see his bat return.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 23, 2015 at 9:08 AM

        He’s gonna have bruises in places he uses.

      • rlndtln - Aug 23, 2015 at 12:20 PM

        Uggla stinks.He will never be here before Sept.The Nats for some idiotic move are playing with 4 bench players.Lobaton,Robinson and Danny have to stay.That leaves 1 spot.Right now it is Turner.Assuming he stays when Denard comes back if before Sept.1 a pitcher or Turner must go,They have no room for Uggla before Sept.1 and in my book he is the last guy to worry about a spot.Denard should come before Sept.1 and I guess either Turner or Roark will go down for a few days but if it is close to Sept.1 and Ross is not scheduled to pitch they could send him down for 4 days.Uggla is not a priority.

      • natsjackinfl - Aug 23, 2015 at 1:08 PM

        Kinda like Span will never play for the Nats again?

  2. veejh - Aug 23, 2015 at 8:03 AM

    Rendon is a crucial piece to the rally we’re gonna need to go on here to salvage this season. Here’s hoping he’s back on track.

  3. mrnat7 - Aug 23, 2015 at 8:32 AM

    Washington should keep Tony at 3b! He has always played his best baseball while playing that position. You can see he is more comfortable at that position. His natural position!! Give Escorbar a crash course and put him at 2b, the position they made the trade for him to play.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 23, 2015 at 9:04 AM

      Give Escobar a crash course and put him at 2b, the position they made the trade for him to play.

      They will, in spring training. But not in the middle of what they hope is a pennant race. You don’t want “crash course” to be “crash and burn course” in this case. I know you don’t.

  4. Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 23, 2015 at 9:06 AM

    Speaking of springing to life, Duffy’s, one of the best Nats bars in DC, and source for the best wings, is on the way back:
    http://www.nbcwashington.com/entertainment/the-scene/Return-of-the-Wings-Duffys-to-Reopen-322606132.html

  5. mrnat7 - Aug 23, 2015 at 9:08 AM

    If you have played ss most of your life, you won’t have any trouble adjusting to 2b!

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 23, 2015 at 9:15 AM

      A good shortstop can move pretty much anywhere on the field and get by, Right now, for instance, he’s playing a pretty fair third base. Putting Escobar at second wouldn’t be a disaster, but it is far from certain to be much of a net gain, considering everything else that changes. I’d hold off, and I think they will, too.

      • natsjackinfl - Aug 23, 2015 at 9:18 AM

        The short lived attempt to move Yunel to second last spring was looking like an adventure.

        The move to 3rd was looked upon as a blessing except for losing Tony Two Bags.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 23, 2015 at 9:21 AM

        Second base is a lot harder than people think, both physically and mentally. There’s more you have to know at second than third, you’re playing in two directions at once, which almost nobody else has to do. This isn’t like softball, where you just put the kid with a weak arm at second (and the one who can’t play in right field).

      • NatsLady - Aug 23, 2015 at 11:46 AM

        I wish I had the citation handy, but I was listening to a podcast that said a SS can move to 3B, but the move to 2B is a lot trickier. The SS described it as “the whole field is tilted the other way.” I feel we are lucky to have Danny, who is like a fielding genius.

  6. Doc - Aug 23, 2015 at 9:43 AM

    For Two-Bags it was mostly about timing and rhythm. Rehab assignments never provide the time to get either back. I’m glad Tony understands how to give it time. Great swings never need to be changed.

    Rendon is the straw that stirs the drink. When he’s on, he’s the best #2 hitter in baseball.

    The ball is starting to sound better coming off of Willy Ramos’ bat too!

    Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Nats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Theophilus T.S. - Aug 23, 2015 at 10:25 AM

      I don’t know that it was a change but Ramos really motored scoring from 2B on that single that fell in short CF. I was convinced as the ball dropped that Ramos — who mostly looks like he couldn’t run to the mailbox — had no chance of scoring and we were going to end up with the bases loaded. Wrong. Maybe the baseline from 3B to HP is slightly downhill but Ramos was running harder and faster than I’ve ever seen him.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Aug 23, 2015 at 11:13 AM

        Agree.

  7. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 23, 2015 at 10:20 AM

    I continue to be of the belief that Rendon was far from being in game condition when he came back and that was at least as important as <100 ABs (an arbitrary no. that varies by individual; if it was a real number then every regular would get 100 ABs in Spring Training and none of them even approaches that). The indicator that Rendon is truly back was last night's stolen base, the first sign to me that he is now ready to be integrated with the on-base aggressiveness Williams has been seeking all season.

    • oldtownatsfan - Aug 23, 2015 at 10:56 AM

      The stolen base was really encouraging, as was the great play to end the game. At times since coming back Tony has looked sluggish on the base paths and in the field, but last night his movement was smooth and quick.

      • rlndtln - Aug 23, 2015 at 11:27 AM

        This is truly amazing.I lobbied for Rendon to play 3rd and Esco to 2nd.Phil Wood when I called him agreed but again the regulars here vilified me.they said you could not move Esco during the season.But then recommend Danny to go to the OF.Now here the cries for Rendon to stay at 3rd.amazing.Anybody who knows anything about baseball or has 2 eyes can see Rendon is far and away the better 3rd baseman.Esco at 2nd would be as good as Rendon who is only average at 2nd.

      • Candide - Aug 23, 2015 at 12:17 PM

        This is truly amazing.I lobbied for Rendon to play 3rd and Esco to 2nd.Phil Wood when I called him agreed but again the regulars here vilified me.they said you could not move Esco during the season.But then recommend Danny to go to the OF.Now here the cries for Rendon to stay at 3rd.amazing.Anybody who knows anything about baseball or has 2 eyes can see Rendon is far and away the better 3rd baseman.Esco at 2nd would be as good as Rendon who is only average at 2nd.

        Vizzini: …you’re no match for my brains.
        Man in Black: [intrigued] You’re that smart?
        Vizzini: Let me put it this way: Have you ever heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates?
        Man in Black: Yes.
        Vizzini: Morons!

      • Eugene in Oregon - Aug 23, 2015 at 12:25 PM

        But an endorsement from Phil Wood? That’s gotta count for something…right?

  8. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 23, 2015 at 11:49 AM

    The Nats have congestion all through the lineup. They have Escobar hitting above his pay grade, Desmond starting his annual salary drive, an All-Star caliber 3B who is finally starting to hit, and a “utility” IF who is better defensively than all of them — at their positions. (Not to mention the rookie.) They have an MVP candidate RF, a fast rookie CF who’s second on the team in RBIs, plays good defense and steals an occasional base, and a veteran LF who isn’t being paid $22-$23MM to sit on the bench. If the NL adopted the DH through the end of September there would be a chance to optimize defensively and offensively. The only place where I can see Williams making a lineup change that would actually improve things would be when Span comes back (fingers crossed) and moves Taylor over to LF. What we have is a championship (maybe division championship) team that has squandered an opportunity and will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs, though they are in full control of their own destiny.

    Watching Taylor the past two games — when he fills out he’ll be as big as Harper and a 30-HR guy (at least a couple of times).

    • rlndtln - Aug 23, 2015 at 12:02 PM

      Going forward MAT will be next years CF.We have 4 infielders for next year and should move Rendon back to 3rd and evaluate Danny and Esco as the 2nd and SS combo.The real problem is LF.We need a left handed power hitting Left fielder.But what do you do with Jason.We can not trade for a big name high priced one with us paying Jason 22 mil.The only hope is to get a good left handed OF to platoon with him and be our 4th OF.Reed Johnson,Robinson and Turner will be the extras.Turner will be able to get a lot of playing time with Rendon and Especially Esco hurt if you look at him.Who becomes the lead off hitter is a problem.In a year or 2 Turner will be that guy.

      • edgs3rd1978 - Aug 23, 2015 at 1:09 PM

        A 22 million dollar platoon…(scratches head)

      • raleighnat - Aug 23, 2015 at 1:31 PM

        I’d trade high on Escobar, turner to 2cd, rendon to 3rd, and Espinosa to short.

    • NatsLady - Aug 23, 2015 at 12:02 PM

      That’s an interesting thought I haven’t seen proposed, namely to switch to the DH when rosters expand. Normally, I detest the DH. But there are so many “extra” players in September, it sort of makes sense.

      P.S., I don’t think Escobar is “hitting above his pay grade” any more. Since the All-Star Break, .263/.336/.449, which is near his norm. He had a great first half. Also, here is Danny since the ASB: .227/.263/.360 — just what you’d expect from a glove-first utility guy.

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 23, 2015 at 12:09 PM

      Span and Uggla both hit HR’s in their re-hab game with Syracuse last night. Uggla is now hitting .429 in the small sample size re-hab. I don’t think the Nats can keep him down in AAA until the rosters expand, so when he and Span are ready there will be creative roster jockeying going on. I am not a big Uggla fan, but I think he will be back on the ML bench by the end of the week.
      I see Span going back to CF next week and Harper and Werth still manning the corners, with MAT spot starting for Span and Werth.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 23, 2015 at 12:20 PM

        Sorry, Harrisburg re-hab game, not Syracuse.

  9. Joe Seamhead - Aug 23, 2015 at 11:57 AM

    I have yet to see a regular on this sight claim that Escobar was a better third baseman than Rendon.Nor have I heard anyone say that Rendon was a better 2nd baseman than Espinosa. When Desmond was bottoming out some of us thought that the IF should be Rendon at 3B, Espinosa at 2B and Escobar at SS. Not everybody agreed with that.But just because people didn’t agree doesn’t mean that anyone was vilified. Your arrogance, repetition, and self pity is why you might get vilified, rindtin.

    • rlndtln - Aug 23, 2015 at 12:03 PM

      You are flat out wrong.They said you could not make that move midseason.

      • rlndtln - Aug 23, 2015 at 12:05 PM

        Thanks for the compliments but Mark where are you.You said comments that are personal would get you thrown off here.Be fair.

      • natsjackinfl - Aug 23, 2015 at 1:06 PM

        Who’s “they”? There were those that referenced the Spring Training attempt to switch him and “suggested” that this was the preferred way to go.

        Guys make in season moves like that all the time but Esco at 3rd makes more sense since Rendon was
        already familiar at second.

        Again, stating the obvious.

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