After starting 62 straight games, a span of 567 2/3 innings, Anthony Rendon was given Wednesday off. It is part of Manager Matt Williams’s plan to get Rendon and others days off over the final six weeks of the season.
The Nationals are in the midst of 16 games in 16 days. A six-game West Coast trip to Seattle and Los Angeles later this month will be sandwiched by off days, but those days of rest are spent recovering from the long travel and time difference. After that, the Nationals will play 17 games in 17 days.
“[Rendon] needs a day, like a lot of guys,” Williams said. “But [Wednesday] is just this day to take a day off. He’s played a lot of games. He’s been on base a lot, of course, because he’s hit well. Played hard defensively too. So we’ll give him [Wednesday] and hopefully that will take him through the next off and then that one will take him through beyond there.”
Rendon has been one of the best players on the Nationals and, according to some advanced metrics, in all of baseball. He is hitting .276/.332/.461 with 16 home runs, 67 RBI, 88 runs scored and a .793 OPS. Because of his strong hitting, defense and base running, Rendon has a 4.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs.com), which is the 14th most in baseball.
Save for a slumping May, Rendon has been consistent. Last season, the longest of Rendon’s baseball career, he felt the wear and tear of the season by September. Rendon, who has dealt with numerous ankle injuries in the past, added strength this offseason in anticipation of a long season and, Williams said, the infielder has maintained it.
“He’s been really good,” Williams said. “Again, you’re in unchartered waters again. You don’t have experience in that regard when you get to that point. But I think he’s held up really well. His legs have been great. He’s stealing bases and hitting doubles and shown good power, all of those things that we talk about every day. But physically, I think he’s held up pretty well. We have to be mindful of it, though. Make sure that we give him a day when we can.”
Williams said he is also targeting off days for Denard Span (who has started 55 of the past 56 games), Bryce Harper (27 of the past 28) and Adam LaRoche (56 of the past 57 games). Left unsaid by Williams was the fact that the Nationals’ growing lead in the division allows them to give players a rest with an eye toward keeping them fresh through the end of the regular season.
The one player who has played the most, however, doesn’t want to entertain a day off. Ian Desmond has started 123 of the Nationals’ 125 games and played in all but but 31 of the Nationals’ 1,128 2/3 innings this season. Desmond doesn’t like taking days off when he feels good and he has shown no signs of slowing up.
“He refuses [a day off],” Williams said. “At some point, I’m going to have to force him. That’s part of the process now, to make sure. The off days are few and far between now till the end of the season. … We’ll look to give guys days as we go along here, space them out as much as possible. But we’ll have to pick some days where guys get days off. It’s important.”