Pick an inning from Wednesday’s win and Anthony Rendon likely had something to do with it, and probably with his glove. In the fifth inning, he stopped Steve Pearce’s bullet groundball, collected himself and the ball, and fired a rocket across the diamond for an out. After the Nationals threw the ball around in the infield, Rendon flashed a broad grin as he flipped the ball back to starter Doug Fister.
Plays like this have become a common sight with Rendon as part of the Nationals infield. He started the season at second base, then moved back to his natural position of third when Ryan Zimmerman broke his thumb, jumped back to second when Bryce Harper returned to the outfield and then on Wednesday he was back at third when Zimmerman served as the designated hitter. Rendon has made the bouncing around — and all the plays on Wednesday — look easy.
It is “almost routine for him,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “To turn some pretty tough double plays and make them look easy. He’s been really good over there.”
Actually, Rendon has also been good at second base. Entering Wednesday’s game, Rendon was rated as a strong defender at both positions. He was worth two defensive runs saved in only 157 1/3 innings at second, according to Baseball-Reference.com — albeit a small sample. At third, where he has played over three times more, he was also worth two defensive runs saved. His four total defensive runs saved leads the Nationals. He can move seamlessly between either position when needed, and his versatility has been a boost.
“It’s not easy,” Williams said of Rendon’s switching positions often. “You see the balls they hit at him [Wednesday] with authority. He handled every chance perfectly. It’s not easy to do. Playing second base is completely backwards from playing the other side of the diamond. It’s not an easy transition. He’s handled it well. He works very hard at it.”
Rendon’s play in the sixth was the most impressive. With men on the corners in the sixth and the Nationals leading 5-2, Caleb Joseph hit a hard grounder off Fister towards Rendon. Thanks to quick reflexes, Rendon snared the ball, flicked a throw to second, Danny Espinosa made a quick turn and LaRoche stretched to complete a crucial double play. Fister walked off the mound and pointed at Rendon, who saved a run with his quick hands.
“He’s selling out and getting in front of balls and playing great defense the way he does it,” Fister said. “He kinda does it nonchalantly but it’s definitely a pick-me-up for both the pitcher and the team.”
But Rendon wasn’t done with that. In the seventh, Nick Markakis chopped a grounder towards the left side of the infield. Playing at normal depth, Rendon charged the ball, grabbed it barehanded and whipped an off-balance throw to LaRoche, who scooped up the ball after one hop. Play Rendon anywhere — second or third — and his glove and arm will find a way to impact the game. and even though he has expressed indifference about making the all-star team, Rendon’s play this week has been worthy of selection.
“I think when you’re as athletic as he is it’s a little bit easier,” LaRoche said of Rendon’s bouncing between positions. “It could be tough on a lot of guys. Again, he’s comfortable at both spots and he can handle the job wherever he’s at.”
FROM THE POST
The Nationals switch on the power, move into first in 6-2 thumping of the Orioles, writes Adam Kilgore.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 8, Gwinnett 4: A.J. Cole earned his first Class AAA win after allowing four runs on six hits and striking out five over six innings. Manny Delcarmen recorded a two-inning save. Steven Souza Jr. went 3 for 4 with two RBI. Zach Walters added three hits.
Harrisburg 2, Bowie 0: Scott McGregor fired four scoreless innings and Colin Bates added three spotless frames. Michael A. Taylor went 2 for 3 and Matt Skole added two hits. Kevin Keyes and Adrian Sanchez each drove in a run.
Lakewood 9, Hagerstown 7: Brett Mooneyham started and allowed six runs on seven hits over 3 2/3 innings. David Napoli and Cody Davis combined to surrender three more runs. Isaac Ballou went 3 for 4, Carlos Lopez drove in two and Drew Ward added two hits.
Auburn 3, Connecticut 1: Reynaldo Lopez tossed six scoreless innings. Jose Marmolejos-Diaz tripled and drove in a run. Raudy Reed drove in another run. Willie Medina went 2 for 3.