Anthony Rendon missed a total of 14 games on the Injured List with a contusion on his left elbow and was slow to heat back up at the plate, but he started to get back in the swing of things shortly after he returned and in 18 games back in Washington’s lineup before playing the third of four with Miami in D.C. on Sunday, he was 19 for 66 (.288/.390/.591) with eight doubles, four homers, nine walks, and 11 Ks in 77 plate appearances since coming off the IL.
Going into Sunday’s matchup, Rendon had a 12-game on-base streak going, over which he was 16 for 44 (.364 AVG) with a .472 OBP, .877 SLG, six doubles, four home runs, nine walks, and 14 runs scored over that stretch.
“When he starts hitting balls the other way hard, he’s in a good position to hit,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said after a 2 for 2, 2 BB game by Rendon against the New York Mets on May 20th, “... and he’s doing well. His all-around game, his defense and everything, he’s playing really well.”
Rendon led the National League and was second in the majors with 18 doubles before the start of Sunday’s game, with his 28 extra-base hits overall tied for fifth among NL hitters.
This slide is a cheat code and proves that Soto is The Juan.#TheMatrix // #OnePursuit pic.twitter.com/55R5RnyIep— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 25, 2019
Rendon’s teammate, Juan Soto, got off to a slow start in his sophomore campaign, and he’d struggled to get up to speed after missing a total of 10 games with back spasms earlier this month, but heading into Sunday’s game against the Fish, the 20-year-old slugger was on a roll, with hits in nine-straight games, over which he was 17 for 34 (.500/.553/.882) with five doubles, one triple, two home runs, four walks, and seven runs scored, and multi-hit games in three straight and in six of the nine on the streak.
The recent run took Soto from a .228/.345/.415 line on the year to .287/.388/.516 heading into Sunday’s game.
Martinez talked after Saturday’s 5-0 win over the Marlins, in which Soto was 2 for 4 with a walk, about what he’s been doing well over his recent run of success at the plate.
“Swinging at strikes, using the whole field,” Martinez said. “He’s really good when he uses the whole field. Accepting his walks.”
“When he starts using the middle of the field, he’s really good,” the second-year manager added, “and he’s been doing that, so you know he’s fine right now.”
Washington’s offense, as a whole, has been rolling as well, with their middle of the order bats going strong, and the Nats’ 58 runs in 11 games going back to May 15 were tied for third-most among NL teams over that stretch, behind only the Chicago Cubs (64) and their NL East rivals, the Atlanta Braves (61).
Rendon and Soto heating up has definitely played a big role in the recent surge at the plate.
Ant’s on the ground.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 26, 2019
Ant’s on the ground.
Lookin like a Gold Glover with Ant on the ground.
Anthony Rendon got dirty for this one. pic.twitter.com/Clzdq713Ur
“They’ve been really good,” Martinez said before Sunday’s game, “and I’ve always said this, with both those guys, when they’re going really well they’re professional hitters. They hit the ball all over the ballpark, and they make contact and they take their walks, that’s who they are, so yeah, I view them as one of the top two guys, back-to-back guys in our league because of what they do, and it’s not necessarily about hitting home runs, which they both can, but it’s actually about moving the ball and putting the ball in play when you need them to.”
With the score 1-0 in the third on Sunday afternoon, Adam Eaton doubled with two down, Rendon got an intentional walk, and Soto took a six-pitch, base-loading, free pass before Howie Kendrick hit a two-run single and Brian Dozier followed with an RBI double to make the score 4-0.
“For us to jump on [Marlins’ starter Caleb Smith] like that and for Soto to work his at bat like he did to get Howie up there was awesome,” Martinez said after the 9-6 win.
Rendon tripled to drive in two runs in the sixth as well, and Soto drove Rendon in with a sac fly as part of another four-run inning.
Rendon finished the day 2 for 4 with a walk, two runs scored, and two RBIs. Soto went 1 for 3 with a walk, RBI, and a run scored, extending his hitting streak with a single in his final at bat.
Martinez was asked after the win, which was the Nationals’ third straight, where he thinks Rendon ranks among the third basemen he’s worked with in his career.
“He’s up at the top,” the manager said. “I said this many, many times, he’s a guy that when he’s not in our lineup, you miss a lot. Not just hitting-wise, but defensively. He’s the one that keeps everything rolling for us, and I’m just glad that he’s doing well and he feels good and he’s playing unbelievable.”