It happened again Tuesday, as if Anthony Rendon’s bat is set to a timer that goes off right around 7 p.m. every night.
In the first inning of a 9-4 win over the Miami Marlins, the Washington Nationals third baseman smashed a three-run home run into the left field seats at Nationals Park. The crowd cheered. Rendon jogged around the bases. There were a lot of numbers packed into that one hit — it extended his on-base streak to 33 games, his hitting streak to 11 and tied a career high as his 67th extra-base hit of the season — and it was just another illustration of Rendon’s unrelenting consistency at the plate. That 33-game streak is also a career high for him and entering Wednesday was the longest active one across the league.
According to FanGraphs, only Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich has a higher wins above replacement, or fWAR, (a measurement of a player’s direct contributions to his team’s success) than Rendon among National League players. Yelich is in the mix for the NL’s MVP award. Rendon, on the other hand, is underappreciated once again.
“Year in and year out he does his thing, and he’s one of the best players in all of baseball,” Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper said of Rendon. “It’s sad that he doesn’t get the recognition that he should. He’s one of the best third basemen in the game. It’s not fair, because he definitely is a big-time player, a superstar player. . . . I don’t think he cares to be that type of guy. He’s going to come in and do his job, play a great third base, and keep his head down and keep going.”
If Rendon’s sustained success feels like a rerun, so is noting how underrated he is. But there is another layer to Rendon’s impressive output this season: He missed 19 games with a toe injury in the spring, and his numbers have hardly dipped. He entered Wednesday with 24 home runs (one fewer than his career high), 91 RBI (nine short of his career high), a career-high 43 doubles and a career-high .312 batting average. That was only slightly behind Yelich’s NL-leading average (.321), and Rendon will play three of his final four games in the hitter-friendly Coors Field in Colorado.
Harper raved about his teammate Monday, a night during which Rendon hit a two-run double in the first and a moonshot two-run homer in the fourth, which Nationals Manager Dave Martinez noted was pretty much hit with one hand. On Tuesday, after that first-inning home run, Rendon was hit by a pitch in the third, roped a single to left in the fifth and smacked an RBI double in the Nationals' six-run seventh. That gave him back-to-back four RBI games.
And it has all, somehow, become something resembling routine.
“No, I really feel like it’s the same as usual,” Rendon said, ever allergic to self-praise, when asked if anything has clicked for him in the past month. “Maybe defenders are a little tired because it’s late in the season, so maybe my balls are falling more.”
It was this on-base streak that naturally lifted Rendon’s season to another level. On-base streaks are not heralded like hitting streaks — with Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941 standing as one of the game’s untouchable records — but they still display steadiness. In the 33 games, Rendon collected at least one hit in all but three of them. Throughout the stretch, he has 48 hits, 14 doubles, eight home runs, 31 RBI, 30 runs scored and is hitting .369. His average on Aug. 19, before the streak started, was .292.
All this comes with Rendon set to hit free agency after 2019, while Harper will do so this winter. Whatever happens with Harper, it seems conceivable that the Nationals could look to sign Rendon to a long-term deal this offseason and lock him in as a fixture of future lineups. He has proven worthy of a major commitment, year in and year out, and the past month has only reinforced that.
"I always said this, for me, [Rendon] is the one guy who is consistent throughout our whole lineup every day,” Martinez said. “He comes every day and you know what you’re going to get. He puts the ball in play. He can move guys over. He does all the little things.”
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