After Zimmermann allowed two runs in the first, he yielded one walk, one hit and no runs the rest of the night. His dominance enabled the Nationals to overcome their immediate 2-0 deficit. At the center of their attack was Rendon, the rookie who has given a new dimension to the top of the Nationals’ lineup.
“You can kind of tell when a guy’s going to be able to hit,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “He’s one of those guys.”
Last year, Bryce Harper came from the minors and lifted the Nationals with relentless energy and devastating power. Rendon, the sixth overall pick of the 2011 draft, is a far different kind of player, more craftsman than marvel. Harper’s blunt force demanded constant attention. Rendon may go unnoticed until an examination of the box score reveals the damage he inflicted at the plate.
“That’s where I feel the most comfortable,” Rendon said. “That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. I like to hit.”
The Nationals are still waiting for the returns of Harper and Wilson Ramos, but already they have received a boost from a crucial addition. Since Rendon replaced Danny Espinosa as the Nationals’ second baseman June 5, he has entrenched himself in the No. 2 spot in the lineup and batted .384 with nine doubles and a homer. He has swatted at least two hits in 10 of 18 games.
“He’s swung the bat like a veteran,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s hit every pitch that’s thrown up there at him. He’s got a quick bat, and he’s aggressive. He hits all types of pitches. Just a good-looking young hitter.”
Rendon’s first stint in the majors came in April, when Zimmerman landed on the disabled list and Rendon played third base, his natural position. He managed one hit in his first 11 at-bats, feeling his way into a new level. When he returned in June, he had already adjusted.
“It’s just the environment itself,” Rendon said. “Coming from the minors, the little everyday game that no one comes to, to here, everything explodes more. More people. More media. Bigger locker rooms. It’s kind of awkward. It takes you back a little bit. But I’m just getting used to everything. It’s helped me relax.”