“Same approach” helps Rendon stay red hot at the plate

Despite Friday’s series opening loss to the Pirates, Anthony Rendon continues to scorch the ball. He went 2-for-5 with two homers, and even his outs were loud. Rendon is batting .426 and already has six homers and 16 RBIs in 12 games.

His OPS is now at a whopping 1.439.

His first homer Friday gave the Nationals a 2-1 lead. His second homer was just as dramatic, bringing the Nats back from a 3-2 deficit to tie the game at 3-3.

rendon-hits-homer-blue-sidebar.jpg“I’m just trying to control the things that I can control, obviously,” Rendon said after Friday’s two-homer display. “That’s all you could do. So I’m trying to put myself in the best position at the plate and trying to field all the ground balls that I can. Just trying to stay in the same approach.”

Rendon is now enjoying an 11-game hitting streak. He also has had at least one extra-base hit in nine straight games, the longest streak in the majors this season - and it is the longest such streak since the Indians’ Francisco Lindor went nine games with an extra-base hit from May 1-8, 2018.

Nationals manager Davey Martinez was asked before the game what has made Rendon so good to begin this season.

“He’s been incredible, he really has,” Martinez said. “He comes every day and is quiet, as you guys know, he doesn’t speak much, but he is having a lot of fun and he is embracing the game every day and he comes out and he wants to win, and he is trying to help us win every single day. But he’s on everything right now and it’s fun to watch.”

Martinez has mentioned before what it was like to have to face Rendon when he was scouting the talented third baseman as the bench coach with the Cubs.

“I’ve said this before, even coming in with another team, for some reason, he doesn’t get the hype that he should get, but he’s one of the best in baseball. He really is,” Martinez said. “I love watching him play every day. The at-bats have been great. He uses the whole field. His defense has been really, really good.”

Rendon’s new teammate, left-hander Patrick Corbin, did not remember too much detail of having to face the consistent hitting third baseman when he pitched for the Diamondbacks. Rendon went 2-for-7 with one strikeout and one RBI against Corbin.

“It’s pretty impressive. I never saw it this close,” Corbin said of Rendon’s hitting ability. “I obviously knew how great of a hitter he was. It’s kind of like one of those streaks like when Paul Goldschmidt would get on fire, win us games singlehandedly. Kind of looks like he is doing that for us. It’s just pretty impressive. His approach is so good, his swing is so simple. He’s dangerous and I love having him on my team.”

The biggest surprise of Rendon’s hitting streak is when it’s happening. Rendon has always felt like he doesn’t start well in April. But if you look at the numbers, a ton of hitters would feel just fine about the way Rendon swings in the season’s first month.

He hit .242 in April 2016, but has steadily made the climb since: .278 in 2017 and .292 last season. It’s only April 13, but this is a smooth start for Rendon again at the plate at a eye-popping .426.

“If I knew what I was doing right, and I wasn’t doing in the past years, then I would’ve tried to do it in the previous years,” Rendon said. “Obviously, I feel like I’m in a groove. But at the same time, I feel like I’ve barreled balls in the past and they’ve been hit right at people.

“So everyone’s like they’ll text me in years past (and say): ‘Oh, your sabermetrics, or your hard-hit balls, or your exit velocity is all great.’ ... Feels good to be in a groove this early because I haven’t felt this way in the past. And also it did feel good that the ones that I don’t hit on the barrel are actually falling.”

Plus, his defense has been solid too, almost as if he is feeding off his nice start at the plate. Steady, consistent play has become second nature from Rendon. After each hard-hit ball Friday night, you could hear media from Pittsburgh commenting in the press box about how good a hitter Rendon is and how he doesn’t get the credit he deserves on a national scale.

But his skipper in D.C. certainly appreciates what Rendon brings every day.

“For me, he’s his own guy, really,” Martinez said. “He doesn’t really say much, but when he does speak, you listen. He goes about his business better than anybody. He’s very passionate about the game. He cares. People don’t notice, but if he does make a mistake, he gets aggravated and he takes it to heart. He’s an unbelievable ballplayer.

“He doesn’t like making errors, doesn’t like making mistakes. Loves driving in runs. He gets it.”

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