He Won the World Series? Anthony Rendon Is Still Nonchalant

HOUSTON — It was the most frenzied hour or so of his baseball profession, and Anthony Rendon had already achieved a lot.

With his Washington Nationals eight outs from elimination in his hometown, in Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday, Rendon had homered to spark a 6-2 comeback victory over the Houston Astros. He had celebrated the remaining out on the subject, raised the Commissioner’s Trophy on a podium and basked in “M.V.P.” chants from visiting followers.

Now the interviews had been winding down, after chats with MLB Network, “Good Morning America” and a neighborhood Fox affiliate on the first-base facet of Minute Maid Park. Rendon descended the steps of the third-base dugout and regarded one remaining query.

He had simply helped ship the first championship in Nationals historical past, and the group’s common supervisor, Mike Rizzo, mentioned Rendon seemed as nonchalant as he would in an exhibition sport in March. How was this doable?

“I feel like there’s bigger things going on in this world,” Rendon mentioned quietly. “A baseball game might get magnified because it’s the World Series, but we’re not taking bullets for our country in Afghanistan or wherever it might be. This should be a breeze.”

Wise perspective, to make certain, but the Nationals hardly breezed their approach to glory. First they clawed again from a 19-31 begin. Then they hurdled two-run deficits in the eighth inning in opposition to All-Star pitchers in the wild-card sport in opposition to Milwaukee and the decisive sport of the division sequence in Los Angeles.

They swept St. Louis in the subsequent spherical however received the World Series with unprecedented problem: 4 victories on the highway, a primary in baseball historical past. In the final two video games they confronted Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke, who rank first and second on the active list for wins. They trailed both in the middle innings and won anyway.

After all the Nationals had endured, Rendon conceded, they simply could not have faced a different ending. There were no bullets flying, of course, but the psychic wounds would have lingered.

“It definitely would have been my worst nightmare if we’d come all the way to play the last game of the season and we lose,” Rendon said. “To actually come out on top, it was worth it.”

Rendon, the Nationals’ third baseman, hit .276 in the World Series, homering in Games 6 and 7 and leading Washington in runs batted in, with eight. He batted .328 over all in October, building off the best season of his seven-year career.

Rendon, 29, had a 1.010 on-base plus slugging percentage, 117 runs scored, 34 homers and 126 runs batted in. The last player to reach all of those numbers in a season was Albert Pujols in 2009. It sets up a bonanza in free agency for Rendon, who was offered a seven-year extension worth around $210 million in September.

“He was a key player this year, he’s been a key part of this ball club, this franchise, this community,” Rizzo said after Game 7. “We love him, he’s near and dear to my heart, and we’d like to keep him.”

The Nationals have made many deals with Rendon’s agent, Scott Boras, who also represents Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and the former Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth. They did not re-sign Bryce Harper last winter, but invested $140 million in starter Patrick Corbin, who won Game 7 in relief of Scherzer.

“I wanted to win,” Corbin said, “and I had an opportunity to go somewhere that wants to win, has the players to do it and the commitment.”

Commitment — in other words, a high payroll — is part of the formula in Washington under the ownership of the Lerner family. But so is a strong player-development system that drafted Strasburg first over all from San Diego State in 2009 and Rendon sixth over all from Rice in 2011, and then signed Juan Soto for $1.5 million from the Dominican Republic in 2015.

Rendon was the first college position player taken in his draft, and the Nationals did not expect him to fall to them at No. 6. But when he hit just six homers as a Rice junior, after 26 as a sophomore, other teams backed off. Ankle and shoulder injuries had temporarily turned him into a designated hitter.

“We took a risk because he had a couple of injuries, but I had seen him for years and I had always loved him,” Rizzo said. “We had it on our board that if he gets to us, we’re taking him, and that was mostly out of what I had seen in the past.”

Nationals second baseman Brian Dozier faced Rice when Rendon was healthier, and was struck by how effortless Rendon seemed to play.

“I remember saying to myself, ‘God, this guy doesn’t really even try,’” Dozier said. “And today, it’s the same thing. Everything comes very natural and easy.”

Rendon made it look that way at a charged moment in Game 6, when he batted in the seventh with two outs, one on and the Nationals up by a run. The game had just been delayed for a lengthy replay review that upheld an out call on Trea Turner, who was ruled to have interfered with a throw to first base by running outside the runner’s lane. The Nationals were livid.

“The world was losing their minds,” Rizzo said, “and Rendon was yawning and then going deep like three pitches later.”

The homer gave the Nationals a three-run lead (Rendon extended it to five with a two-run double in the ninth) and scrubbed away any significance the call would have had on the outcome. It was a typical reaction, said Rendon’s father, Rene, who said his son taught himself poise.

“It’s funny, because when he wasn’t doing well when he was 7, 8, 9 years old, he would just get so angry and cry,” Rene Rendon said. “And you can’t show emotion when you’re competing, because it takes you out of your game. It shows weakness to the opponent. He pretty much learned that at a young age. The light bulb switched, and all of a sudden he wasn’t showing emotion out there.”

Rendon’s mother, Bridget, said she was most proud of her son’s humility. While Rendon obliged the crush of reporters at the World Series, he generally leaves that chore to teammates. He declined an All-Star invitation in July — though he was not on the injured list — and would rather avoid the spotlight.

“He’s shown integrity,” Bridget Rendon said. “He doesn’t say: ‘Look at me, I’m a great guy.’ I like that attitude about him, that he doesn’t do that. I’m very proud of him for his ability, but he knows it’s all God-given. He doesn’t take anything for granted.”

In the seventh inning of Game 7, with Greinke deep into a one-hit shutout, Rendon’s older brother, David, told his mother what would come next: a home run. David said he had predicted homers by Soto and Ryan Zimmerman in Game 1, and he just had a feeling his brother would deliver off Greinke. He was right.

“He’s so calm,” David Rendon said. “He’s been in the big situation so many times, it’s nothing new to him.”

Even his swing is quiet, said the hitting coach, Kevin Long. Rendon does not have a leg kick, so his front foot is planted by the time the pitcher releases the ball. All he has to do is react.

“That’s how simple it is,” Long said. “If everybody could hit that way, they’d do it. It’s a unique skill to be able to do it and get ready that early, but I believe that he’s the best at it that I’ve ever seen, as far as getting down and ready and being on time.”

Rendon’s timing could not be better now, as a free agent who just led his team to a title. Would this charmed October make him eager to stay for an encore?

“I mean, yeah, I guess so, but that’s down the road, so we’ll worry about that when it comes up in the off-season,” Rendon said, finally ascending the steps to a clubhouse filled with champions. “Right now, I just want to go lay down on my couch.”

Source link Nytimes.com

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