When the Washington Nationals were down, Anthony Rendon made sure they were never out.
He was Mr. Clutch all October.
Houston starter Zack Greinke was cruising with a one-hit shutout and a 2-0 lead in Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night. It would be glib to say that’s exactly where Rendon and the Nats wanted to be, but the way their season turned out, why not?
Rendon stroked a changeup into the left-field Crawford Boxes for a solo home run with one out in the seventh inning, and Washington set off on its fifth, final and most famous comeback in an elimination game this year, a 6-2 victory over the Astros for its first title in the franchise’s 51 seasons.
“We had nothing else to lose when people had written us off,” Rendon said. “We were facing elimination games that people thought that we shouldn’t have been there in the first place. So we just kept on fighting and happened to come out on top.”
Rendon, a free-agent-to-be playing perhaps his final games for Washington, hit .276 (8 for 29) in the Series with two homers and eight RBIs.
The quiet third baseman hit when it mattered most: Rendon had three homers, three doubles and a walk from the sixth inning on in the Nationals’ five elimination games.
“His swing is nearly flawless. His zone control is tremendous. His defense has been lights out,” Astros manager AJ Hinch marveled. “I think because of his obscurity, a little bit behind the scenes. He’s not on these We Play Loud games or these things. He’s under the radar. And yet he’s one of the most impressive superstars in our game.”
After overcoming a 19-31 start to finish second in the NL East and reach the playoffs, Washington trailed Milwaukee 3-1 in the eighth inning of the wild-card game when Rendon walked and scored the go-ahead run as Juan Soto singled.
With the Nats trailing 3-0 in Game 5 of the Division Series, he doubled against Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler leading off the sixth inning, homered off Clayton Kershaw leading off the eighth, then doubled again and scored on Howie Kendrick’s 10th-inning grand slam.
Rendon’s two-run homer off Will Harris extended the Nationals’ lead to 5-2 in the seventh inning of Game 6 against the Astros, and Rendon added a two-run double in the ninth off Chris Devenski, capping a five-RBI night as Washington overcame a 3-2 Series deficit.
His home run against Greinke made Rendon the first player to homer in three straight games when his team was facing elimination, according to STATS.
He had only plaudits for Greinke.
“He had kept us off balance for the first six, seven innings,” Rendon said. “I just happened to get a ball over the plate in the air.”
Washington manager Dave Martinez viewed the first run as the key to the comeback, the spark the Nationals needed. He paid Rendon the ultimate managerial compliment.
“You look at Rendon, who has no heartbeat,” Martinez said. “He’s just the same guy every day, every play, every second.”
More AP MLB coverage: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports
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