'Unbelievable' hands helping Rendon rediscover stroke

Third baseman hits 6th HR since All-Star break in win over Braves

'Unbelievable' hands helping Rendon rediscover stroke

WASHINGTON -- In 2014, Anthony Rendon was a five-tool MVP candidate. Then in 2015, he battled injuries and underperformed when he saw the field. For much of 2016, he lingered somewhere in between.

But since the All-Star break, Rendon has played like his 2014 self again, batting .310 with nine doubles, six home runs and 21 RBIs in 24 games. On Sunday, he homered for the second time in three games and drove in four runs in the Nationals' 9-1 win over the Braves.

Manager Dusty Baker said entering the break Rendon was his pick to have a big second half.

"Water seeks its own level," Baker said. "And Anthony's been a good hitter for most of his life."

Rendon's four-RBI day started in the first inning, when he drove home the Nationals' third run on a sacrifice fly to center field. In the fifth, he came to the plate with runners on first and third and smashed a fastball from Tyrell Jenkins over the wall in left-center for a three-run homer, giving Washington a 7-1 lead.

Though Rendon won't share his secrets beyond saying that "balls are falling in," Baker said the 26-year-old's success comes from his hands.

Rendon's sac fly

"His hands are unbelievable. He has some of the quickest hands, offensively and defensively," Baker said. "Earlier in the year, his hands were, they were a little banged up, and he was using more arms than hands, but now he's using his hands. And, boy, when he's on time, he does it so effortless and I enjoy watching him hit."

In addition to his hot hitting, Rendon has contributed beyond the batter's box as well. He has played an excellent third base all season, despite rarely getting an off-day, and has stolen 12 bases after swiping only one in 80 games in 2015.

With backup infielder Stephen Drew on the disabled list and no one else on the roster comfortable at third base, Rendon has had to work especially hard recently. He has appeared in every game since June 11 and started every contest since July 3.

"Obviously, it's tough," Rendon said. "You play 162 days, and you play every day, or you try to play every day, and it's going to take a toll on your body. But that's what we're out here for. We're out here to play."

After the home run on Sunday, Rendon has now reached base safely in 20 consecutive games. He'll look to continue that streak Monday at hitter-friendly Coors Field, where he has batted .300 (but without a homer) in his career.

Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.