WASHINGTON — Out of the MLB All-Star break, Washington Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon was one of the hottest hitters in baseball, earning National League Player of the Week honors to start the second half.
It was during that time that Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier began openly questioning the Nats’ lineup construction, where skipper Dusty Baker was batting Rendon sixth. Their argument is that a hitter of that caliber should be batting higher in the lineup, to set the table for hitters like Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy.
Baker believes that batting Rendon behind Murphy gives Rendon lots of RBI opportunities and forces pitchers to not pitch around Murphy.
The discussion caught the ear of the Nats’ communication department, who offered Paulsen a chance to come hash it out with Baker during a pregame press conference. Paulsen eventually obliged, had an awkward exchange with the manager, and was chided by long-time D.C. sports writer Thom Loverro.
That was the last we heard about the lineup debate, until Sunday afternoon, when Baker addressed the issue yet again.
In the eighth inning, Joe Maddon and the Cubs elected to walk Daniel Murphy and load the bases for Rendon. Rendon has delivered in the clutch but took the hit-by-pitch in this situation. Baker poked at the lineup issue anyway.
“That’s why you like hitting Rendon behind Murphy,” the Nats manager said. “Because you know most of the time he’s not going to hit into a double play. He can hit the ball the other way, get you some two-out RBIs.”
Rendon neither hit into a double play or hit the ball the other way, but the point is valid. Instead, he takes the glancing blow to the elbow and takes his base, allowing the tying run to score. Matt Wieters delivered the big blow next, hitting a grand slam and driving Rendon home.
So take that, Grant and Danny!