WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon saw it coming. He was in the middle of his postgame interview on the field -- after his walk-off, two-run single in the ninth inning off Ryne Stanek catapulted the Nationals to a 7-6 victory over the Marlins on Friday night at Nationals Park -- when he saw Victor Robles approaching with a cooler.
Rendon ducked and put his hands on his head for cover as Robles showered him and the remaining 26,201 fans serenaded him with a chant that is starting to pick up steam around Washington, “M-V-P. M-V-P.”
“He’s been phenomenal,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “I say it all the time, but for me he’s a candidate for the MVP. He is. He’s carried us in big moments all year long.”
This was the first walk-off hit for Rendon this season, and his first since August 2014, but in reality the Nationals have started to expect him to come through in these spots. For one thing, no one is more calm and collected, or approaches these moments with such an ease as Rendon. And he continues to prove he has transformed into one of baseball’s best hitters, becoming a legit candidate for the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award with his career year.
And while Rendon, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, might still have some work to do to overtake front-runners Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich, there is certainly a case to be made for Rendon to make it more than a two-man race.
“People going [to] be people,” Rendon said in response to the MVP chants.
But the people have a point. Rendon collected three hits Friday, improving his latest on-base streak to 15 consecutive games, and his batting average on the season to .333, the best in the National League. He drove in three runs, improving his already career-best RBI total to 107. His 158 wRC+ is third in the NL. And just three players in the league (Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich and Ketel Marte) have been worth more Wins Above Replacement than Rendon, who missed 14 games earlier this year with an elbow injury.
"I'm lucky he's on my team,” Nats reliever Daniel Hudson said. “He's pretty much a complete hitter. ... I couldn't tell you how to attack him. Maybe just try to flip him a bunch of sliders and see if he'll get himself out. It's been fun to watch him the last month. He's been on a tear and just doing MVP things."
Rendon deserves as much credit as anyone for his contributions to this Washington turnaround, and his clutch performance bailed the Nationals out on Friday night. They played a sloppy game -- committing two errors in the third, issuing six walks as a pitching staff, blowing leads in the seventh and ninth inning, and popping up an ill-advised bunt in the ninth as they trailed the Marlins.
“For me, 95 percent of the time, I can count on him doing the job there,” Robles said through an interpreter.
“I mean this guy can hit everything,” starter Anibal Sanchez said. “So, it’s our big chance to win.”
And once again for the Nationals, their best hitter did not disappoint.
“I think [in] a situation like that, you're trying not to, like, outdo yourself,” Rendon said. “You don't need a home run right there, so I was just -- same boring answer I’ve been trying to do for the last six years, trying to stay inside the ball and put the barrel on it.”