Anthony Rendon's first hit last night was a double to right field off Houston Astros' lefty Brett Oberholtzer. Rendon was stranded on the basepaths at the end of the first inning. In his second at bat, the Washington Nationals' 2011 1st Round pick singled on a line drive to right field, but he was forced out at second on a grounder to short off Jayson Werth's bat. The third time up, Rendon doubled in two runs with a line drive to left field that put the Nationals ahead 4-0. He scored from second on a single to center by Werth that made it 5-0 Washington after four.
Those four at bats against the Astros' left-handed starter left the Nats' right-handed hitting second/third baseman 13 for 23 (.565/.577/1.000) with four doubles, two home runs, two walks and one strikeout in 26 plate appearances against left-handed pitches so far in 2014. In his rookie campaign last season, the former Rice University third baseman put up a .294/.359/.471 line against lefties with six of his 23 doubles and four of his seven home runs coming in 117 PAs against southpaws.
Against right-handers, Rendon, who connected for his fourth hit last night and his fourth home run of the season, an opposite field blast to right off right-handed reliever Paul Clemens, has a .253/.292/.429 line so far this season and a .253/.310/.382 line through 373 PAs thus far in his major league career.
The now-23-year-old infielder, who fell to the Nationals at no.6 overall in the 2011 MLB Draft because of injury concerns and a shoulder injury, in particular, which limited him to DH duties in his final collegiate season, is living up to the praise Nats' GM Mike Rizzo heaped upon him on the night of his selection that June.
"What we think we have is a very polished, accomplished college hitter," Rizzo said that night. "The 2010 National Player of the Year and a consumate, professional hitter."
"We feel that he's got a great approach at the plate," Rizzo continued. "He's a high on base percentage guy. He works counts. He's got a terrific batting eye. He's got great pitch recognition, a tough guy to strike out, and a guy who uses the whole field. He's very, very balanced, has great raw power along with a line drive stroke and we feel that he's a very efficient hitter and capable of hitting for a high average and for power."
Before selecting the Houston, TX-born infielder, the Nationals satisfied themselves that the ankle injuries he suffered in 2009-10 and the shoulder injury in 2011 were not any reason to pass on the hitter who was considered the top bat in his draft class.
"He had a couple of ankle surgeries and a shoulder problem this year that kept him limited to DH duties throughout most of the season," Rizzo explained.
"[He] played a little bit in the field, but our medical staff has cleared his health and we feel that if that was the reason he fell to sixth, we're satisfied in the work we've done on him and we're happy to have him."
Rendon knows he's lucky to be where he is right now in his career.
He talked this winter about overcoming the injury issues, including the partially fractured ankle he suffered in his first pro season in 2012, to make his MLB debut last year and earn a spot on the major league roster this spring, though after his rookie campaign, there really was no doubt he would travel north for Opening Day in New York.
"I'm fortunate enough to be in this position at all," he said. "I know some people that have just one surgery and they haven't really recovered from it or they've been hindered from their playing skills. I've been fortunate enough, I've been blessed that after a few surgeries, I'm still up here. So, I must be doing something right. I don't know what it is yet, but I'm going to go along with it."
Matt Williams talked about what Rendon's doing right after the second four-hit game of his nascent major league career last night in his hometown.
"He can hit the ball line-to-line," Williams told reporters. "Tonight he proved it again. Double to right-center. Single to right and a double to left and a homer to right. So pretty impressive night."
And a pretty impressive start in the first month of his second major league season. Through 28 games and 122 plate appearances, Rendon has a .316/.352/.544 line with 10 doubles, two triples and four home runs. Asked about Rendon's advanced approach at the plate at such a young age, Williams said he hasn't seen many young players as comfortable as Rendon is hitting the ball to all fields.
"I don't know," he said. "That's hard to do. If you're going to hit the ball the other way like he does, it's hard to pull it. But he just stays back and he doesn't get out there. He stays back and sees the ball as long as he can and he's got a really short swing. He's pretty good."
Though the Nationals' GM praised Rendon's ability to spray the ball around the field on the night of the draft in 2011, Rendon told MASN's Dan Kolko in a post game interview last night that it was something he really learned to do once he joined the organization and started facing professional pitchers who had control he didn't necessarily see in college.
"Knowing that pitchers are going to be more dominant," Rendon explained, "or that they're actually going to hit their spots and then so, they're going to be nibbling the corners or hitting the outside of the plate, so I had to learn to go the other way and I have great teammates, great mentors and that helped me get through that."
Whatever his coaches and teammates told him and however Rendon applied that advice, it's working:
[ed. note - "The graph above does not include Rendon's four hits from last night."]