One main reason the Nationals have been able to get on a roll since late June has been their ability to compile extra-base hits on offense.
The Nationals have gone 11-6 in July and 14-6 since June 28. The offense has averaged 5.24 runs per game in the past 17 games, totaling 89 runs. The Nats are enjoying a stretch of 23 consecutive games with at least one double dating to June 25.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon has done a nice job of compiling extra base hits himself during the team’s recent run. Since July 1, Rendon has five multi-hit games, seven games with at least one double and 12 games with at least one base hit.
Rendon has already exceeded his 2013 production numbers, and in three less games.
In 98 games in 2013, Rendon had 93 hits, 23 doubles, one triple, seven homers, 35 RBIs and a .396 slugging percentage.
Compare those numbers to 2014. In just 95 games this season, Rendon has 108 hits, 25 doubles, five triples, 13 homers, 54 RBIs and a .469 slugging percentage.
Manager Matt Williams talked Wednesday about why Rendon has done so well getting good swings to ignite the Nationals offense.
“I think it’s staying on the baseball. We’ve seen a lot of them to right-center field and that’s just a question of staying on the ball and being able to drive the ball to that gap,” Williams said. “He creates backspin. He has extremely quick hands and he creates backspin to the opposite gap. That tends to lead to extra-base hits, and that also leads to him being able to handle the breaking ball that’s hanging in the zone to his pull side. So he’s been really good. He’s played really well.”
Jayson Werth, Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman also have hit well, and created extra-base hits during the team’s July stretch. It’s not always about power in the form of home runs. This team has the ability to hit the ball hard to the gaps and to the warning track away from outfielders for extra bases. That’s just as important.
Obviously, the team will now have to adjust to the absence of Zimmerman (right hamstring strain) for what looks like at least one month. Danny Espinosa and Zach Walters have the ability to swing for doubles, too, and will need to pick up some of the slack for the team to continue its run.
Expect Rendon to be in the middle of it all, and really only get better. A .300 batting average and 40-plus doubles this year are well within Rendon’s capability. I believe we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in his offensive development.
Note: The Nationals have benefited the past few series in facing opponents that have recently been reeling. The Brewers were 1-7, the Rockies were 0-5 and now the Reds are 0-6 as the Nationals arrive to face them. The Nationals went 4-2 against those first two opponents during this run. They finished 5-1 against Colorado this season and 4-2 versus Milwaukee.