In the spring, Manager Matt Williams found the same problem each time he constructed a Nationals lineup. Somebody had to bat eighth. He didn’t see any hitters who looked like they should bat so low in the order. He settled, perhaps in a nod to seniority, on Anthony Rendon.
In the Nationals’ 9-7 win over the Mets, Rendon proved that while he may bat eighth, he’s no eighth hitter. In his first opening day, Rendon went 2 for 5 with a crucial double in the seventh that knocked out starter Dillon Gee and a towering, three-run homer off John Lannan that sealed the victory in the 10th.
Rendon, the sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft, was viewed as a prime breakout candidate coming into this season. In Game 1, he drove in four runs.
“It just makes the lineup even more potent, deeper,” Denard Span said. “The eight hole hitter, driving in runs, doing what he did today, it’s going to be a long season for the other team.”
If Rendon continues to hit like he did in spring training and opening day, he will not remain the eighth hitter for long. He earned the right to keep the second base job he took over last year. His quick wrists, keen eye and lyrical swing make him as close to a can’t-miss hitter as there is in baseball.
Before the game, Rendon recognized his progress. Last year, Rendon made his major league debut in April at Citi Field after Ryan Zimmerman landed on the disabled list. He returned there Monday for the first opening day of his career.
“It’s a little bit special,” Rendon said before the game. “I’m excited about it. I’m thankful for it, definitely, coming where I come from. I’m blessed to be in this situation.”