Real or not? Anthony Rendon, Nats symbolic of MLB's power surge


Anthony Rendon finally joined the party.

All season — and especially this week — he had watched his Washington Nationals teammates bash home runs and hit baseballs all over the park. As Rendon drove to Nationals park on Sunday, however, he was hitting .226 with no home runs and just two extra-base hits in 84 at-bats. At a time when more players than ever are hitting for power, Rendon had been one of the least powerful hitters in the league. Among qualified regulars, only Dustin Pedroia had a lower isolated power figure.

So, of course, Rendon had one of the greatest days at the plate in major league history: 6-for-6 with three home runs, a double and 10 RBIs. He left the park hitting .278 with 15 RBIs. With one game, he had a pretty good month.

OK, so that final home run came off New York Mets backup catcher Kevin Plawecki for the last bit of damage in the Nationals’ 23-5 laugher. It still counts! My friend Jim Baker keeps track of the greatest single-game performances in history, assigning one point for every total base, run scored, RBI, walk and stolen base, a similar system used by some fantasy leagues. Under this method, Rendon became one of six players to register at least 31 points:

32 points

Mark Whiten, St. Louis Cardinals, 9/7/93: 4-for-5, 4 HRs, 4 runs, 12 RBIs

Shawn Green, Los Angeles Dodgers, 5/23/02: 6-for-6, 4 HRs, 2B, 6 runs, 7 RBIs

Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers, 5/8/12: 5-for-5, 4 HRs, 2B, 4 runs, 8 RBIs

31 points

Tony Lazzeri, New York Yankees, 5/24/36: 4-for-5, 3B, 3 HRs, BB, 4 runs, 11 RBIs

Gil Hodges, Dodgers, 8/31/50: 5-for-6, 4 HRs, 5 runs, 9 RBIs

Rendon, Nationals, 4/30/17: 6-for-6, 2B, 3 HRs, 5 runs, 10 RBIs

Those with 30-point games are Fred Lynn (3 HRs, 10 RBIs), Joe Adcock (4 HRs) and Walker Cooper (3 HRs, 10 RBIs). Rendon became the first player since Garret Anderson to drive in 10 runs in a game, and you can get more crazy stats from Rendon’s day here. Speaking of crazy, it was a crazy week for the Nationals. Besides this 23-run game, they had games of 16, 15 and 11 runs during a four-game series at Coors Field. For the week, they hit .355, slugged .649 and scored 77 runs — and still went just 4-3.

For the month, the Nationals averaged 6.80 runs per game. Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .420 with 11 home runs and 29 RBIs, Daniel Murphy is hitting .343, Matt Wieters — remember when nobody seemed to want him on the free-agent market? — is at .301/.400/.534, and Trea Turner had eight extra-base hits this week. My favorite Nationals stat, however, belongs to Bryce Harper, who scored four more runs Sunday to give him 32 in April. He’s the only player since 1900 to score 30 runs in April, and he’s on pace to score 207 runs this season. That’s what happens when you have a .509 OBP and Murphy and Zimmerman hot behind you. Sure, “on pace” stats are still goofy this time of year, but consider that only two players since World War II have scored even 150 runs in a season: Ted Williams in 1949 (150) and Jeff Bagwell in 2000 (152).

The Nationals are part of the bigger picture across the majors: Home runs are going, going … and still going. We saw 5,610 home runs hit in 2016, the second-most in one season behind the 5,693 hit in 2000. That trend has continued with 863 home runs in April, the second-most of any April behind only 2000, and that gives us a season pace of 5,683. Zimmerman, Eric Thames, Khris Davis and Aaron Judge each hit at least 10 home runs. It’s the first time we’ve had four players do that in April since eight guys did so in 2006.

All those home runs come at a cost: Strikeouts are up yet again, from a rate of 21.1 percent last season to 21.6 percent in 2017. Batting average, which has hovered between .251 and .255 since 2011, is at .247, so overall run scoring, at 4.41 runs per game, though noticeably up from 2014’s 33-year low of 4.07, is still well below the 5.14 figure of 2000, the peak total of the steroids era.

The Nationals ended up with the best record in April, but they suffered a big loss over the weekend when Adam Eaton tore his ACL. Eaton had done a terrific job jump-starting the offense from his leadoff spot with a .393 OBP, and while Turner and his blazing speed can certainly fill in there, moving Turner opens a hole in the second spot. Jayson Werth hit there, Sunday and though he’s off to a decent start, he struggled against right-handers last year. The best solution to hit in front of Harper — assuming Dusty Baker doesn’t want to break up the Harper-Murphy-Zimmerman order — might be Sunday’s star. Rendon hit second for much of 2014, and he finished fifth in the MVP voting. If he finds that stroke again, the league’s best offense will continue to roll, even minus Eaton.

As for the Mets … Needless to say, Sunday was an embarrassing disaster beyond just the scoreboard. Noah Syndergaard started, left in the second inning and will finally get the MRI he refused to have a few days ago. “The preliminary diagnosis is possible lat strain,” general manager Sandy Alderson said, “which may or may not be related to his previous complaint, which was in the biceps. So we’ll just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.”

Dodgers sweep Phillies as Justin Turner climbs to .400 Zimmerman wasn’t the only player to hit .400 in April. Turner tied Saturday’s game with a pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning — the third of three in a row for the Dodgers, who scored another run later in the winning to win — and is up to .404 after registering three hits in Sunday’s 5-3 win. Turner has just the one home run, but he tied a Dodgers record with 11 doubles in April.

We aren’t caught up in your love affair (with runs) The Kansas City Royals lost 7-5 to the Minnesota Twins. They’ve lost nine a row. They scored 63 runs in April — or fewer than the Nationals scored this week.

Quick thoughts … Dallas Keuchel is so good and so fun to watch. He’s now 5-0 with a 1.21 ERA and has gone at least seven innings in all six of his starts. The scary thing for the AL West is that the Houston Astros are 16-9 and haven’t really clicked on all cylinders, except for Keuchel. Carlos Correa is showing signs of coming out of his slump, so watch out. … It was a wild weekend at Yankee Stadium and another wild one on Sunday, as Yankees pitcher Bryan Mitchell played an inning at first base between pitching stints. He pitched a scoreless ninth but got the loss when he allowed three runs in the 11th as the Baltimore Orioles salvaged one game of the series. … Aaron Sanchez, just off the DL after a blister problem, had to leave after one inning when he split a fingernail. At least the Toronto Blue Jays won their second in a row for the first time all season. … Time to start giving some hype to Miguel Sano, who is hitting .316/.443/.684 and slugged his seventh home run while driving in nine runs the past two games. He has a 32/18 SO/BB ratio, a big improvement over last year’s 178/54 ratio. … Who’s in bigger trouble in right: the Royals, Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants or Mets? I’d say the Royals. What do you think?

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