Nationals

Nationals

The Nationals returned home Tuesday with a tight grip on the top National League wild-card spot and a legitimate MVP candidate in the middle of their batting order.

Anthony Rendon is one of just three NL batters with an OPS above 1.000. He’s played sterling defense for months. He’s having the best season of his career and was just named the NL Player of the Week. According to Nationals manager Davey Martinez, Rendon deserves even more than that.  

“He's been unbelievable. Talk about being consistent, he's been consistent all year,” Martinez said before Tuesday’s series opener against Baltimore at Nationals Park. “I've said it before: He's the guy who makes our lineup go. Great job by him getting National League Player of the Week, but as I've said before, it's beyond that. I really believe he should be considered MVP of of our league. He's been that good.”

At first blush that seems like a manager boosting his own player. Milwaukee outfielder Christian Yelich (1.105 OPS) and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger (1.057 OPS) have been so good they have their own commercial together. But Rendon isn't far behind at 1.024. The Angels' Mike Trout is the only American League player above 1.000 OPS (1.085). 

But Rendon is sneaking into the conversation. At worst, he very well could finish third in the voting with Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and outfielder Ronald Acuna, Jr. in the mix, among others. 

But Rendon has caught fire in late August and his team has been winning for months. Despite the loss of Bryce Harper to free agency in the offseason, despite missing starter Max Scherzer for most of six weeks, the Nationals were four games up on the second NL wild card entering Tuesday’s game. 

 

Rendon went 14-for-29 last week with a .483 batting average, three doubles and two home runs in seven games against Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cubs. He extended his hitting streak to 12 games. He is now one homer shy of 30. 

Rendon is making a run at the batting title with a .329 average, good for third in the NL entering play Tuesday. He is second in RBI (104) and on-base percentage (.407) and third in doubles (37). It’s been a remarkable year at age 29 and timed beautifully with Rendon’s pending free agency after the season.   

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