WASHINGTON -- Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ended up having a productive second half in 2016, hitting .291 and driving in 52 runs. He credits manager Dusty Baker for his success after the All-Star break.
Rendon, who had been underperforming, remembers the talk he had with Baker before the first half of the season came to an end. After Rendon finished taking a first round of batting practice, Baker approached his third baseman, pulled him to the side and challenged him.
Baker asked Rendon if he could hit .350 after the All-Star break and drive in 85 runs for the season. Naturally, Rendon said yes. Had he said no, it would have meant Rendon questioned his own abilities as a baseball player.
Baker also told Rendon not to worry about hitting home runs. They will come eventually.
"[Baker] said, 'Just try to put the barrel on the ball. Just try and hit the ball hard, stay through it and the ball will eventually fly out,'" Rendon said. "Then he said, 'During the second half of the season, guys are playing every day, so they are going to be a step slower and they are not getting to those balls that they were diving for in the first half. These balls are going to start falling in, and you are going to start accumulating more hits.'
"It's funny that he said that, because I feel like it's happening. So I'm going to have him start predicting the future a little more."
After Rendon drove in exactly 85 runs in the regular season, the hits are still falling in during the postseason. In Game 1 of the National League Division Series, Rendon was the most productive batter for the Nats against the Dodgers, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Although Rendon is one of the Nationals' most efficient hitters, he is not into getting publicity for his success at the plate. He is not unfriendly with the media. He simply doesn't like talking about himself. After all, his parents taught him to be humble.
"I'm not a very boastful person," Rendon said. "Of course, there are times you are excited and happy about whether you have a good game or not. But I don't want to be that person that boasts about himself day in and day out. I try to stay away from [the media] as best as I can. Not that [the reporters] are terrible. It's going to help me humble myself and not make my head any bigger than it already is."
Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.