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Washington Nationals’ lineup for the series opener with the New York Mets in Citi Field

Washington and New York start a four-game set in Citi Field at 7:10 PM EDT tonight.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Chicago Cubs’ starter Kyle Hendricks, who was on a roll going into last night’s game, held the Washington Nationals in check for four scoreless and hitless before the Nats scored a run in the fifth and three in the sixth to knock the right-hander out of the game.

What was Hendricks doing to keep the Nationals off the board earlier in the outing?

“Just his angle,” manager Davey Martinez said. “The way he throws the balls. Sliders, sinks it, he kept us off-balance.”

And what changed in the sixth, when the Nationals connected for four hits, took a walk, and scored three on a three-run home run by Anthony Rendon?

“I truly believe we got the ball up and out over the plate like we talked about,” Martinez said.

“The first couple of innings his two-seamer was really good, changeup was really good, but we were able to get the ball up and out over the plate a little bit better and Rendon goes the other way hits a home run and the at bats just changed a little bit and they started hitting.”

Rendon, who returned from a 10-game stint on the Injured List for an elbow contusion on the last road trip, is back to hitting like he was before the injury, with a six-game hit streak going after last night’s game, over which he’s 10 for 23 (.435/.519/.870) with four doubles, two home runs, four walks, and two strikeouts.

With Rendon heating up, Juan Soto back and swinging better, and Brian Dozier showing signs he’s getting it together, the Nationals’ lineup looks different than it did.

“We’re playing well,” Martinez told reporters after last night’s loss.

“We’re playing well. Like I’ve said before, our lineup is starting to lengthen a little bit. The boys are playing hard, they really are, and I see signs.”

Last night’s loss left them 19-27 on the season, 8.0 games back in the NL East as they head into this week’s four-game set with the New York Mets in Citi Field.

“We’ve just got to keep going,” their manager said. “This thing — this is far from over, and they know that, and they’re going to keep playing hard.”