With multi-hit games in each of his last three starts, Howie Kendrick, (who’s 8 for 12 with a triple and two home runs in those games), is now 17 for 39 (.436/.476./692) so far in the month of September, making it difficult for manager Davey Martinez, (who has been calling lineups in over the last few days as he recuperated from a health scare), to leave the veteran infielder on the bench.
Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, in his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, argued that Kendrick, who missed most of the 2018 campaign with a torn Achilles tendon in his right foot, has a good case for the NL Comeback Player of the Year this season.
Heading into tonight’s game, the 36-year-old, 14-year veteran has a .343/.393/.577 line, 23 doubles, and 16 home runs in 113 games and 346 plate appearances, over which he’s been worth 2.8 fWAR.
So, Rizzo was asked, is he going to be the NL Comeback Player of the Year?
“If he’s not I don’t know what the criteria is,” Rizzo told the Junkies.
“He’s been terrific for us. And don’t forget for about the first two months when all of our guys were down, including [Trea] Turner and [Anthony] Rendon and [Juan] Soto and [Ryan] Zimmerman, all at the same time, Howie Kendrick was hitting fourth for us and cleanup and carrying this ballclub for a long period of time, and he’s just such a professional hitter and a professional gentleman, and he’s a guy that we’re proud that he wears the Washington uniform.”
It’s not just on the field either, Rizzo explained, echoing what Bench Coach and fill-in Nats’ skipper Chip Hale said about Kendrick earlier this week. Kendrick is a big presence in the clubhouse, which is why they’ve done everything they can to keep him healthy, available, and contributing.
“The way he conducts himself with such grace and dignity,” Rizzo said, “... and this guy can rake. He could always hit, he’s as good a hitter now as he was when he was in his prime, and I think Davey has done a great job of keeping him in the lineup and kind of spreading out his games played so we don’t over-use him, especially coming off that Achilles [injury] last year and the hamstring this year, so it’s been a terrific year for Howie, and we’re going to push him a little bit here down the stretch, he’s going to have to play quite a bit because he is swinging the bat so well.”
When Kendrick is in the lineup, (he’s started in 65 of 113 games played so far, with nine starts so far in September), he changes the dynamic of the Nationals’ offense, Rizzo added.
“When Howie is in the lineup,” Rizzo said, “he’s a force for us and as he really protects Juan Soto and I think that we can’t gloss over not only what those guys at the top of the lineup — those top four guys do, but, and Howie, but Asdrúbal Cabrera has been great for us, Zim’s got some big hits for us and don’t sleep on Victor Robles. This guys gets so many two-out RBIs and so many late-inning RBIs that are huge for us, and he’s having himself a terrific rookie season. We go up and down that lineup, it’s pretty good, it’s tough for pitchers to navigate it three times, and I think that’s why you see us — when we score early, we score early and often, and often times late in the game when we’ve worn down those starting pitchers.”
Marlins’ rookie Robert Dugger will try to navigate the Nationals’ lineup tonight...