On Tuesday, Kendrick’s first homer was a shot to left field to lead off the third inning. It was his 100th home run across 12 seasons in the major leagues, the majority of which came while with the Angels. The second blast soared over the right field wall on a 3-0 pitch to lead off the fifth and gave the Nationals some breathing room. Kendrick’s last three hits have all been home runs.
“For me, it’s just something you can say you did,” Kendrick, 34, said as his two sons, Owen and Tyson, looked on in the Nationals clubhouse. “But at the same time, I’ve never really been a home run guy, more of just a hitter. But I’ll take it as it comes. It was fun. It was exciting tonight.”
The multi-homer game was Kendrick’s seventh in his career and first since April 2014. His previous six were with the Angels, his team of nine seasons from 2006 to 2014. The Nationals acquired Kendrick on July 28 from the Philadelphia Phillies for minor league left-hander McKenzie Mills. The Nationals also sent international bonus-pool space to the Phillies in the deal.
The midseason pickup helped an ailing Nationals team riddled with injuries, and so far, Kendrick has been able to help re-create the production of injured players like outfielder Jayson Werth, who has a fracture in his foot and hasn’t played since June 3.
When asked Tuesday about Kendrick’s production since acquiring him as “bench” help, Manger Dusty Baker replied with a quick, “Who said that?”
“He’s very important,” Baker continued. “We knew Howie. He’s been an everyday player most of his career and he doesn’t complain. He stays in the game, he keeps the guys up on what’s up, what’s happening in the game. Howie’s willing to do anything and play almost anywhere, and he’s hit all over the lineup.”
Kendrick’s teammates recognize the talent the team has acquired, too. Nationals southpaw Gio Gonzalez took a moment after Tuesday’s game — in which he pitched six scoreless innings — to recognize Kendrick for his career accomplishment. He said just the fact the Nationals were able to get Kendrick at this time in the season was “pretty remarkable.”
“To see him on the market like that, that’s a very talented man,” Gonzalez said. “He plays hard, he plays the game right, and it shows every time he goes up to bat. He’s just a guy that you want to stop and see what he’s going to do because he’s going to do something remarkable.”
Kendrick batted leadoff Tuesday in place of the injured Brian Goodwin, who left Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Giants with groin tightness. Baker said he wasn’t sure if Goodwin would go on the 10-day disabled list, and he would need a couple more days to evaluate.
Kendrick has played multiple positions for four teams, a trait Baker praised Kendrick for. Kendrick said when he played for Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, he hit “pretty much everywhere in the lineup.” Kendrick said it prepared him for unpredictable roles with the Dodgers, Phillies and now with the Nationals.
The veteran said he didn’t have any expectations in coming to the Nationals. But so far, Kendrick has been exceeding any there were for him. Since landing with Washington, Kendrick is batting .386 (17 for 44) with four homers, three doubles, 11 RBI and seven runs. For the season, Kendrick — a career .291 hitter — is batting .351.
“At the end of the day if you go out and do the little things right and execute, everybody will be right where they want to be at the end of the year,” Kendrick said. “I think that is what it is about. If you put emphasis on winning and doing the right things, the numbers and all that stuff will take care of itself.”