Anthony Rendon skied the first pitch he saw from Cleveland Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano in the ninth inning. Second baseman Jason Kipnis raced into foul territory and first baseman Nick Swisher ran back to make a play that appeared routine. Two defenders, an easy popup in foul ground. Neither, however, caught it. Rendon, the sweet-swinging prospect recalled 10 days ago and thrust into a starting role, was given a second life. Chad Tracy, the Washington Nationals’ veteran bench player who tied the game with a pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning, turned to backup catcher Jhonatan Solano in the dugout. Baseball works in curious ways, and Tracy and Solano sensed the sport’s gods at play. “We were both, ‘He’s getting ready to hit a home run,’ ” Tracy said later in a noisy visitor’s clubhouse. “And everybody kept saying, ‘A great time for your first. A great time for your first.’ ” As he has in his eight games since his second call-up, Rendon delivered. On the second pitch after Swisher’s error, Rendon smashed a fastball the opposite way into the Indians’ bullpen for his first career home run to cap a 7-6 win after ace Jordan Zimmermann couldn’t hold a 5-0 lead. The Nationals called up Rendon, the sixth overall pick of the 2011 draft, on June 4 from Class AAA Syracuse. He had been promoted there only three days before to play second base. But when struggling Danny Espinosa landed on the disabled list, they needed him to handle the majority of the second base duties in the majors. Rendon, 23, had only eight games of professional baseball at second base at the time of his recall. Though he hadn’t played the position since Little League, he has handled himself well at second. At the plate, he has hit up to his draft pedigree, batting .406 (13 for 32) with five doubles and five RBI. He hit second for the first time on Saturday and is making a strong case to play second for the rest of the season. Nationals Manager Davey Johnson knew the defensive miscue would hurt. “It’s going to haunt them,” Johnson thought to himself. “Phew, I get another try,” Rendon was thinking as he ran back to the batter’s box after the uncaught popup. “At that point I was trying to put a good swing on the ball.” Said Swisher: “That shouldn’t happen to us, but it did and it cost us the game. It was a little miscommunication.” The win left the Nationals at 34-33, and Rendon’s play has provided a lift to a struggling offense. The night before, Rendon’s brother, David, sent him a text message predicting Saturday’s home run. “It felt good,” Rendon said. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s actually funny. Got a little mullet power,” he added, as he reached to his hair to display his new haircut. “I gotta do a shoutout to [Adam LaRoche] for hooking me up with this awesome haircut.” For the second time in two innings, the Nationals’ dugout erupted. After Zimmermann squandered a 5-0 lead, slumping pinch hitter Tracy drilled a high fastball from reliever Joe Smith over the center field fence to tie the score at 6 in the eighth. Tracy had been mired in a 0-for-21 slump, his last hit on May 24.
Rendon comes up clutch for Nats in 7-6 victory over Indians
Washington Post | Jun 16