You’d be forgiven, Nats fans, if you wanted Howie Kendrick out of the game long before his instantly legendary grand slam in the top of the 10th that won the Nationals their first-ever playoff series. Kendrick, despite turning in a pleasant surprise of a 2019 season that saw him become one of Washington’s better players, was so mistake-prone as a fielder and runner in the NLDS that TBS had a whole lowlights package ready after he socked the huge dinger.
At the plate, he wasn’t much better. A mere 5-for-22 in the postseason before that grand salami, Kendrick’s previous at-bats in Game 5 were all unlucky or just plain bad: two strikeouts, a GIDP in the sixth with his team down 3-1, and a robbery of extra bases in the outfield by Cody Bellinger. All this from a guy who was coming off a career-best year at age 36—someone who hit .344 in his return from a 2018 Achilles injury. He looked almost like a liability for the Nats, at least until he stepped up to face Joe Kelly with the bases loaded.