HOUSTON -- The Astros may have won home-field advantage in this best-of-seven World Series, but at least one National should benefit from Games 1 and 2 at Minute Maid Park.
Howie Kendrick is the Nats’ designated hitter for Game 1 in the American League stadium, giving the 36-year-old additional opportunities to rest his legs. And a well-rested Kendrick can do damage, as his National League Championship Series MVP trophy attests. Starting each of Washington’s first 10 postseason games thanks to a preponderance of off-days, Kendrick hit .289/.341/.474 with one home run -- a decisive grand slam in Game 5 of the NL Division Series against the Dodgers -- and nine RBIs.
Transitioning to DH should not be an issue for Kendrick, who assumed that role seven times in Interleague Play this season. Kendrick has served as the designated hitter nearly as many times in the past three seasons with the Nationals as he did over nine years as an AL player.
“I’m a lot more used to DH’ing now,” Kendrick said. “When I was younger, I felt like I was missing something not being out on the field. Now I just watch the game, study the game, pay attention to at-bats and just try to stay in the flow of the game. You’ll see me in the dugout a lot. I don’t really go down to the cage to hit a whole lot. I just try to stay mentally locked into the game and see what’s going on.”
Body maintenance has been key for Kendrick, who missed nearly a full season after tearing his right Achilles' tendon in May 2018. Upon returning this year, he started games sporadically, until his production forced the Nationals to use him more often at first and second base. In September, Kendrick hit .410/.455/.623 with three home runs in 66 plate appearances.
With Kendrick at DH for Game 1 of the World Series, the Nationals started Asdrúbal Cabrera at second base and Ryan Zimmerman at first. The Nationals’ other option at second is Brian Dozier, who is 0-for-6 with two strikeouts in the postseason. Cabrera played more frequently in September than Dozier, and with more success.
The Nationals could have started lefty slugger Matt Adams at DH, with Kendrick at second and Zimmerman at first. But Adams, who is 5-for-21 lifetime against Game 1 starter Gerrit Cole, has taken only three plate appearances this postseason.