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Encouraging signs spark memories of Nats’ 2014 run
Funny how quickly your outlook can change.
A week ago, many Nationals fans were calling for manager Matt Williams’ head, for the team to cut bait on Jayson Werth and the $42 million the team still owes him through 2017, and for the benching of Anthony Rendon, who had gone more than two weeks without an extra-base hit or an RBI.
But after Williams placed the struggling Werth atop the batting order and Rendon was forced back to his natural third base position because of an injury to Yunel Escobar, things seem a lot more positive.
Of all the encouraging signs to come out of last weekend’s series victory over Milwaukee, the most encouraging were Werth and Rendon finally seeming to hit their stride.
For the series, Werth was 4-for-11 with a pair of runs scored, and Rendon was 3-for-11 with an RBI double, a pair of homers, three runs scored and five RBIs. Even more excting was watching Rendon dive to his left and lay out to catch a line drive off the bat of Jean Segura to end Saturday’s 6-1 victory.
Those are the kind of results the team and its fans expected of them this season after they helped power the team to the National League’s best record in 2014. Holding down the second and third spots in the Nationals’ order, Rendon and Werth keyed the Nats’ sprint to the NL East title with a 38-18 run in August and September.
Werth was on fire for the entire second half last season, slashing .317/.441/.481, but in the last two months of this season, he tore up opposing pitching to the tune of .320/.424/.520 in August and .324/.478/.479, in September/October, scoring 25 runs and driving in 23.
Rendon earned himself a Silver Slugger and the team’s MVP award with a .287/.344/.496 August and .337/.429/.506 September/October. He scored 36 runs and drove in 26 in that span.
The biggest difference between the 2014 division champion Nats and the current second-place club is the lack of consistent offene. Washington was third in the league with 686 runs scored last season, 46 more than the NL average. This season, the Nats are fifth with 509 runs scored, jut 12 more than average.
The Nationals will need to improve on that production if they are going to overtake the New York Mets in the division race. Having Werth and Rendon healthy and productive will go a long way toward recapturing the offensive spark that propelled them into the 2014 postseason.