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Rendon a vital cog in Nationals' machine

Despite lack of All-Star recognition, third baseman putting up stellar numbers
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon ended the first half of the season with the best batting average, on-base percentage and walk-to-strikeout ratio of all National League third basemen. Yet, he'll be spending next week at his hometown in Houston, not at the All-Star Game in Miami.

Rendon had a shot at making his first All-Star Game, but he finished third in the NL Final Vote -- despite enjoying the best season of his career. Nonetheless, he capped his incredible first half by reaching base in four of his five plate appearances and scoring two runs in the Nationals' 10-5 win over the Braves on Sunday, showing what may lie ahead for the second half and postseason.

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WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon ended the first half of the season with the best batting average, on-base percentage and walk-to-strikeout ratio of all National League third basemen. Yet, he'll be spending next week at his hometown in Houston, not at the All-Star Game in Miami.

Rendon had a shot at making his first All-Star Game, but he finished third in the NL Final Vote -- despite enjoying the best season of his career. Nonetheless, he capped his incredible first half by reaching base in four of his five plate appearances and scoring two runs in the Nationals' 10-5 win over the Braves on Sunday, showing what may lie ahead for the second half and postseason.

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"He should be the starting third baseman for the National League this year," Bryce Harper said. "Definitely nothing against Nolan Arenado or anybody else that's there, but that guy has had an unbelievable first half. He's kept us in ballgames, had innings to win ballgames, played a great third base, and just done everything all around for us."

Nationals manager Dusty Baker credited Rendon's savvy for his ability to foul off good pitches. That forces the pitcher to throw his best stuff repeatedly, and it's also helped Rendon walk 48 times and strike out on just 47 occasions.

Rendon has also been the anchor of the Nats' left-right-left-right middle of the order, which has propelled the team to lead the NL in almost every offensive category. The other three hitters in that series -- Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy -- are All-Stars.

Video: ATL@WSH: Rendon steals second, reaches third on error

While Rendon isn't known for his power, the 27-year-old has 16 home runs this season. His career high is 21, set in 2014. Rendon is also poised to surpass his career-high 85 RBIs (set in '16), with 52 so far this season.

Additionally, Rendon has been stellar on defense. He leads all third basemen in ultimate zone rating, according to Fangraphs.

"Anthony is our foundation man," Baker said. "He's a clutch man. Especially hitting behind [Murphy], he's very, very important because they don't walk [Murphy] to get to Anthony. Just shows the amount of respect that he has throughout the league."

Even though Rendon isn't an All-Star, the Nationals' offense will be one of the most scary lineups to face in the second half and beyond if Rendon continues his production.

"He should be down in Florida with us," Harper said. "It's definitely a bummer, but he'll get his chance."

Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.

Washington Nationals, Anthony Rendon