Liz Barr: Rendon’s return has sparked Nationals

He’s our favorite player, he’s Trea Turner’s favorite player: it’s Tony Two Bags himself, Anthony Rendon. We all missed him when he was out unexpectedly long after fouling a ball off his foot, and the offense suffered in his absence. But now that he’s back, he’s thriving, the team is thriving, we’re all thriving.

Since Rendon’s return on May 5, the Nationals have gone 7-2, and they’ve scored 32 runs through those nine games, which averages to about 3.5 per game. But with the way the starting staff has been going, they haven’t needed any more than that. The numbers aren’t exactly deadly, but more than anything else, the team is gelling again with Rendon back in the lineup. Earlier in the season, they couldn’t hold anything together, and they were losing in every which way. But now things have clicked, and things are getting back to normal. Bryce Harper has protection in the lineup. Roles are solidified. Rendon brings clutch hitting and elite-caliber defense at third. He’s helped out with morale more than anything.

Rendon has been scorching hot since his activation from the disabled list, and he’s done a majority of his damage this year after his return. He’s driven in six RBIs and been walked six times, hit two doubles, and scored four runs. He’s really hit his power surge of late, hitting three home runs (including the one in the yesterday’s suspended game) and driving his slugging percentage up to .447 to complement his .271 average.

The Nats’ overall hitting numbers might not be so pretty, but Rendon’s sure are. And he’s just scratching the surface. He’s going to hit his stride real soon, and you know what they say about hitting: it’s contagious. If he keeps hitting like this, or if he hits even better, the rest of the team is going to catch on, and everyone currently in a slump will be released from it. Of course, the additions of hot-hitting newbies like Mark Reynolds will also help with that contagious hitting.

The Nats still have a long way to go before they return to the Nats we know and love from last year. The offense still needs to get going, and the bullpen needs a few tweaks. A good handful of important players are scheduled to return from injury at some point in the season, which will provide the team with a huge lift. But they’ve clawed their way back. Rendon has been a huge part of that. Since his return, the Nats have gone from hovering around .500 to an overall 24-18 record. At one point, they were a distant fourth in the division and six-plus games back. Now they’re in third and just two games back. Rendon’s consistency has helped the team, and I believe that as he goes, so does the team. They’re beginning to feel whole again.

Liz Barr blogs about the Nationals for The Nats Blog. Follow her on Twitter: @RaiseTheBarr1. Her opinions on the Nationals will appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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