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Howie Kendrick’s 6 best moments of the 2019 season

Howie Kendrick’s 6 best moments of the 2019 season

The Nationals took a significant step in building their roster for the 2020 season Friday when they reportedly re-signed Howie Kendrick to a one-year, $6.25 million deal with a mutual option for 2021.

Kendrick was limited to just 121 games during the regular season but played an important role for the team in the playoffs with some hits that will forever live in Nationals lore.

But Kendrick wasn’t just a clutch hitter in the playoffs. His 1.135 OPS in “late and close” situations—defined by Baseball-Reference as any situation in the seventh inning or later where a hitter’s team is either up by one, tied or the tying run is on deck—ranked second on the team among players with at least 30 such plate appearances last season.

Washington is bringing back the 36-year-old with hopes that he can continue to come through in key moments as his career winds down. But even if he doesn’t, Kendrick has cemented his Nationals legacy.

Here are six of his best moments from the 2019 season.

April 13 – Eaton, Kendrick spoil Archer’s big day

Chris Archer has had an up-and-down tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates since being acquired in a blockbuster trade midway through the 2018 season. His best start of the year, however, came against the Nationals on April 13.

Archer held Washington one run on four hits over seven innings, handing the game over to the Pirates’ bullpen with a 2-1 lead. Reliever Richard Rodriguez retired the first two batters he faced in the eighth before Adam Eaton came to the plate.

That’s when the pendulum swung, as Eaton left the yard only for Kendrick to do so a few minutes later. Sean Doolittle closed the door in the top of the ninth and the Nationals moved to 7-6 on the year.

May 9 – Kendrick drives in four against the Dodgers

Patrick Corbin may have been the story in this one by blanking the Los Angeles Dodgers over seven strong frames, but it was also one of Kendrick’s best games of the year.

His big hit didn’t come late, however. Kendrick took Rich Hill deep for a three-run homer in the top of the first to set the tone early. He then hit an RBI single with two runners on in the eighth before the Nationals eventually won 6-0.

June 9 – Kendrick hits the first of four straight homers

It was a 1-1 game when Kendrick came to the plate in the top of the eighth against the San Diego Padres on June 9. So naturally he saw a curveball heading for the center of the plate and pulled it into the left field seats for a go-ahead home run.

What followed was absolute madness. Trea Tuner homered. Then Eaton did. Then Anthony Rendon. It was the second time the Nationals went back-to-back-to-back-to-back in team history and more than enough to give Washington the win.

NLDS Game 5 – The greatest moment in Nationals history, for a few weeks

“Do you believe it!?”

That was the radio call Dave Jageler made when Kendrick hit a go-ahead grand slam in the 10th inning. It was the moment that delivered the Nationals’ first postseason series winning, putting to bed a history of disappointment for the franchise.

It was the single-most important hit any Nationals player ever had. That is, until a certain World Series game a few weeks later…

NLCS Game 3 – Kendrick hits three doubles en route to NLCS MVP honors

There was no way a list like this could be put together without a nod toward Kendrick’s NLCS performance. He reached base seven times in the series, driving in four runs and scoring another four of his own. But by far his best game came in Game 3.

The Nationals returned to D.C. with a 2-0 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and treated their fans to a blowout 8-1 win. Kendrick smacked three doubles, including a two-run, opposite-field gap plugger off Jack Flaherty in the bottom of the third that gave Washington a 4-0 lead.

World Series Game 7 – You know the one

When that ball clanked off the foul pole down the right field line, it changed the lives of D.C. sports fans forever. The magical run had one last bit of magic left, and of course it came courtesy of the man who gave the fan base real hope in the first place.

Kendrick is back for another run in 2020. The Nationals? They’re hoping his magic hasn’t run out just yet.

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There’s a Harper in DC again: Nationals trade for reliever Ryne Harper

There’s a Harper in DC again: Nationals trade for reliever Ryne Harper

It may have taken until Jan. 29, but the Nationals finally made their first trade of the offseason Wednesday when they acquired right-hander reliever Ryne Harper from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for 21-year-old pitching prospect Hunter McMahon.

Of course, he won’t be the first Harper to don the Curly W. He’ll have a lot of work to do if he wants to top the legacy of the former MVP now playing in Philadelphia.

Putting that aside, he’s joining the Nationals coming off a solid rookie season in which he posted a 3.81 ERA with one save and 12 holds in 61 appearances for Minnesota.

At 30 years old, Harper will certainly be a bit seasoned for a second-year player. Per Brooks Baseball, his fastball averaged out at 89.7 mph while he also mixed in healthy usage of a slider and curveball. He isn’t a big strikeout pitcher (8.3 K/9), allowing mostly grounders (38.5 percent) and flyballs (37.3 percent).

Harper was designated for assignment by the Twins to make room for Josh Donaldson on the 40-man roster. Washington was among the suitors for Donaldson; although they didn’t end up signing him, the third baseman still managed to make an impact that affected the Nationals.

McMahon was a ninth-round pick out of last year’s draft who posted a 0.71 ERA over nine appearances last season between rookie ball and Low-A Auburn.

Washington figures to give Harper a chance to compete for a bullpen spot in spring training, joining a crowded group that only has three pitchers guaranteed spots heading into the year: Sean Doolittle, Will Harris and Daniel Hudson.

After the Nationals made the trade official Wednesday, their 40-man roster is now officially full. For fans still holding out hope that Kris Bryant could be going to D.C., this trade only lowers those odds even further after Bryant lost his service-time grievance with the Chicago Cubs.

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Kris Bryant loses grievance against Cubs, chances of trade to Nationals slim

Kris Bryant loses grievance against Cubs, chances of trade to Nationals slim

Kris Bryant will remain signed with the Chicago Cubs for at least the next two seasons, although the team continues to field calls for trade proposals, ESPN reported Wednesday morning.

The Cubs have dangled Bryant in trade talks all offseason after the team signaled its desire to get under the luxury tax. Washington was rumored to have contacted Chicago about the third baseman earlier this winter, but those talks have “gone nowhere” according to The Athletic.

After incumbent third baseman Anthony Rendon signed with the Los Angeles Angels at the Winter Meetings, the Nationals pursued Josh Donaldson in free agency but ultimately refused to meet his asking price. Instead, the team re-signed infielder Asdrúbal Cabrera and will give top prospect Carter Kieboom the chance to compete against him for the starting job in spring training.

THE BIG TWENTY: LOOKING BACK AT THE START OF STRASBURG AND HARPER IN DC

Chicago retaining two years of control over Bryant raises his trade value to the point where the Nationals likely wouldn’t be able to put together a competitive offer. Washington only has one consensus top-100 prospect in Kieboom and has been hesitant to deal him in past trade discussions.

The Atlanta Braves, who lost Donaldson to the Minnesota Twins in free agency, have been rumored to be interested in Bryant and would be in a much better position to make an offer enticing enough for the Cubs to trade him. The same goes for the Texas Rangers, who are moving into a new ballpark this season and would benefit from bringing in a star like Bryant to put fans in seats.

There’s also the likelihood that Chicago holds onto Bryant to start the 2020 season. The Cubs still have most of the core that led the team to its first World Series in 108 years back in 2016 and figure to be competitive in a wide-open NL Central. If they end up struggling to start the year, they could always field calls for him at the trade deadline when there might be more suitors.

Meanwhile, the Nationals appear content with the depth they’ve accumulated at third base. In addition to Kieboom and Cabrera, Washington also signed Starlin Castro and retained Howie Kendrick—both of whom have experience at third. With the team already projected to be close to the luxury tax threshold, a move for Bryant remains unlikely.

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