Nationals: A Look Back At Howie Kendrick’s Time In D.C.
By Max Rayman
Nationals legend Howie Kendrick has decided to hang up his cleats after an illustrious 15-year career.
In 2017 when Howie Kendrick was traded to Washington at the trade deadline, the fanbase was ecstatic. The Nationals were in the thick of a playoff race and needed reinforcements for a deep run. With the Phillies, Kendrick was hitting .340 with two homers, and 16 RBIs in only 156 at-bats. At the time, Kendrick had the ability to not only play infield, but also the outfield, and Washington lacked a versatile bench bat. In return, the Phillies received a prospect and international amateur signing bonus pool space. Hindsight is 20/20, but Washington won this trade by a mile.
When he arrived in Washington, Kendrick was 34 and at the tail end of his career. The professional hitter had made a name for himself with the Angels. He spent the first nine years of his career in LA, hitting .292, with 78 homers, 501 RBIs, and an OPS of .756. Kendrick made his only All-Star team with the Angles and was a fan favorite during his tenure. After nine years with the Angels, he was traded to the cross-town rival LA Dodgers in 2014, where he spent the next three years of his career. Before the start of the 2017 season, he was traded to the Phillies which brings us full circle.
In his first year with the Nationals, Kendrick appeared in 52 games hitting .293, with seven homers, 25 RBIs, and an OPS of .837. Kendrick became a crucial part of the team, helping Washington overcome injuries to Bryce Harper. Washington made the playoffs after winning the division, but once again fizzled out. After the playoffs ended, Washington made one of the most important decisions in franchise history, they re-signed Kendrick to a two-year deal.
The veteran got off to a hot start in 2018, hitting .331, with four homers, and 12 RBIs, before the unspeakable happened. Patrolling the outfield in a game against the Dodgers, Kendrick ruptured his Achilles, ending his season. Almost 35 at the time, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if Kendrick had decided to call it quits, but instead, he persevered and returned for the 2019 season. Due to his injury, Kendrick started slow before finally going on a tear. Appearing in 121 games, he hit a whopping .344, with 17 homers, 62 RBIs, and an OPS of .966. The veteran was key in the offense getting back on track and leading Washington back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
The 2019 playoffs are where Kendrick became a D.C. hero. After beating the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card game, Washington had a showdown with the LA Dodgers, a rematch of the 2016 NLDS which the Dodgers won in five. A solid defender, Kendrick committed three errors and was 4-19 at the plate heading into the tenth inning of Game Five. Fans were quick to make Kendrick the scapegoat, and understandably so. Unnerved, Kendrick stepped into the batter’s box in the top of the tenth with the bases loaded and unleashed a moonshot to put the Nationals up four.
With one swing, Kendrick silenced all of the haters while changing the National’s destiny. Washington held on to beat the Dodgers and advanced to the NLCS to face St. Louis where Kendrick dominated. Named NLCS MVP, he hit .333, with four doubles, four RBIs, and an OPS of 1.012. Kendrick and Washington made short work of the Cardinals, setting up a showdown with the Houston Astros in the World Series. In a series that went down to the wire, the veteran hit .280, with a homer, three RBIs, and an OPS of .708. In the seventh inning of Game Seven, the professional hitter came up to the plate down one and with a runner on first. If Kendrick wasn’t already a hero for his grand slam in the NLDS, what he did next cemented his legacy in D.C. Howie launched Will Harris’s cutter down the right-field line and clanged it off the foul pole to put Washington up one.
After adding some insurance runs, the Nationals went on to win their first-ever World Series title. Never known for his power, Kendrick has the two biggest homers in franchise history.
After the season ended, Kendrick re-signed with Washington to run it back, but only appeared in 25 games due to an injury. Unfortunately, this was the last run for Kendrick who was unable to ride off into the sunset with the send-off he deserved. He was never able to re-take the field and be showered by the fans in gratitude for his 2019 playoff run. Instead, the D.C. legend will quietly leave the game he loves a champion.