Anthony Rendon was in a monthlong slump. Heading into Sunday’s game, the Nationals’ third baseman seemingly still hadn’t recovered from a March calf injury, as he was hitting .226 this year with only two extra-base hits — both doubles — and five RBI; in Washington’s best-in-baseball offense, he was just about the only regular not hitting. Then, as the song goes, he was lucky enough to meet the Mets.
Bye, slump! Bye, Mets dignity! Bye, baseballs one, two, and three, sent soaring into the stands in Washington, D.C.! In a game the Nationals won 23–5 and that generated headlines about the health of New York ace Noah Syndergaard, who left in the second inning, Rendon became a prominent side story with one of the best hitting performances in MLB history, tallying six hits in as many at-bats to go along with 10 RBI and those three homers.
Only Reds catcher Walker Cooper had matched those hit, homer, and RBI totals, and when he did so in 1949, he needed an extra at-bat. Rendon also became the first National League player since the 1994 strike to reach 10 RBI in a game. He knocked in two runs with a first-inning single and three with a bases-loaded double in the fifth; he also sprinkled in homers in the third, fourth, and eighth, the last coming against Mets backup catcher Kevin Plawecki, who was in his second inning of work from the mound because, again, his team was losing by a couple of touchdowns.
In eight innings, Rendon matched the season-long home run totals of Kyle Seager, José Bautista, and Eric Hosmer combined. Entering Sunday, of 182 qualified hitters in MLB, 84 — including Rendon — hadn’t yet reached 10 RBI all season. Rendon’s historic day was a fitting cap to the season’s first month, which Washington’s lineup spent hammering opposing pitchers en route to the majors’ best record.
That offense will relent somewhat in the coming months, as it won’t maintain a .334 team BABIP and is sure to suffer from losing leadoff hitter Adam Eaton for the year to a torn ACL. But the lineup remains formidable: Trea Turner is a viable replacement for Eaton in the 1-hole; Bryce Harper is hitting like it’s 2015 again; Daniel Murphy hasn’t slowed; veterans Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, and Matt Wieters are all crushing the ball; and Rendon might have swung himself back into form on Sunday. Baseball wisdom holds that one good day cannot bust a slump, but it’s hard to have a better day than Rendon.