Rendon’s shot lifts Nats over Rockies in doubleheader opener
WASHINGTON — The Nationals dug a daunting hole for themselves in the first 50 games of the season. Fifty games later, they’re right where they expected to be — in contention for a playoff berth.
Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon homered, and the Nationals beat the Colorado Rockies 3-2 in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday to improve to 35-15 since a 19-31 start. They’ve been the best team in the majors since May 24.
“A lot of people wrote us off and saying we need to make moves already, we need to do this, we need to do that,” said Rendon, whose team has won 22 of its last 31 home games. “You don’t win the division, you don’t win the pennant, whatever you want to call it, in the first 50 games of the season. Or the first 100 games of the season. Anything can happen.”
The matinee was a makeup of Monday’s postponement. Wednesday’s originally scheduled game will be played as the back end of a day-night doubleheader.
Rendon smacked the first pitch from reliever Carlos Estevez (1-1) just over the wall in left-center for his 21st home run to open the seventh, a shot that was reviewed and upheld.
“When you watch him hit, he gets ready to hit,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “On every pitch, he looks like he’s ready. He might be fooled with a slider, but he gives himself a chance to take a good swing on every pitch. No different today.”
Wander Suero (3-5) worked a scoreless seventh, Fernando Rodney escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth and Sean Doolittle closed it out for his 22nd save in 26 tries.
Colorado has dropped eight of nine and 15 of 18 to slide seven games under .500 for the first time since April 15.
“You want to get and stay in contention, because that’s our expectation, and right now it’s not happening, so it’s frustrating,” manager Bud Black said. “I think the best word is frustrating, but it’s not going to take the fight out of this group.”
Ryan McMahon gave Colorado a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly off starter Erick Fedde in the fourth and added an RBI single in the sixth. Fedde gave up a run and three hits while striking out two in four innings.
Rockies starter Jon Gray left after four innings, departing because of the effects of a right calf injury suffered when Brian Dozier’s line drive hit his leg in the second. Washington pushed across its only run against Gray on Gerardo Parra’s bases-loaded walk in the fourth.
Eaton opened the fifth with a first-pitch homer to right off Chad Bettis.
Left-hander Kyle Freeland (2-7, 7.62 ERA) will start the nightcap for Colorado, while Washington will counter with lefty Patrick Corbin (7-5, 3.40).
Rockies: RHP Yency Almonte, who is 0-0 with a 4.02 ERA in 10 appearances, was added as Colorado’s 26th man for the doubleheader.
Nationals: Washington summoned INF Adrian Sanchez as its 26th man. Sanchez is hitting .200 (4 for 20) in 18 games with the Nationals this season. . Between games, Washington optioned Fedde to Double-A Harrisburg and recalled C Raudy Read from Triple-A Fresno.
Gray’s injury limited him to his shortest outing of the season, and his five walks were a season high.
“I was OK for a second,” Gray said. “I had some adrenaline going and pitched OK the next inning. But it got really stiff and I’m pretty sure it was evident. You could probably see I was missing pretty bad glove side.”
X-rays were negative on Gray, and he said he anticipates making his next start.
ROOM TO SPREAD OUT
Washington announced an attendance of 14,628, the smallest crowd to watch a Nationals home game since 14,520 saw the Nationals beat Houston on April 18, 2012.
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