The Washington Nationals were dealt another damaging injury Saturday.
Howie Kendrick, the versatile veteran who has been among the team’s most consistent hitters this season, suffered a ruptured right Achilles that will require surgery and likely end his season. The injury occurred during the eighth inning of Washington’s 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.
How did the injury occur?
It seemed to be an innocent enough play. Kendrick drifted back to the wall to make the catch on Max Muncy’s sacrifice fly without an issue. However, on the throw back in Kendrick crumpled to the ground in a lot of pain. Kendrick was seen grabbing the area behind his right ankle, which is consistent with an Achilles injury. He was eventually taken off the field on a cart.
MASN Sports’ Mark Zuckerman noted that it appeared a spike on Kendrick’s right shoe got caught in the metal drainage grate that sits right at the base of the wall, on the far edge of the warning track. If so, that’s an especially excruciating way to lose such a valuable player.
How important is Howie Kendrick to the Nationals offense?
Because of the sheer numbers of injuries the Nationals were already facing, Kendrick had been thrust into a near everyday role this season. As noted, he’s been very productive in that role, slashing .302/.331./.477 in 39 games coming into Saturday. His 45 hits led the team, and his 14 doubles were five more than the next closest player on Washington’s roster.
The 34-year-old veteran was similarly productive last season after being acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies at the trade deadline. In 52 games, Kendrick posted a .293/.343/.494 batting line with seven homers and 25 RBIs. He quickly became a go-to guy for then manager Dusty Baker. He was already doing the same for new manager Davey Martinez. Kendrick was aiming to make it impossible for Martinez to remove him from the lineup even when key guys like Daniel Murphy, Adam Eaton, Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Wieters returned.
Who are possible replacements in the Nationals organization?
The Nationals major league options are severely limited right now. Adam Eaton, Brian Goodwin and Victor Robles are in the midst of extended disabled list stints. Rafael Bautista, a well regarded outfield option, just saw his season end with a knee injury at Triple-A. That leaves Bryce Harper, Michael A. Taylor as the team’s only proven outfielders.
It’s reported that the Nationals are likely to recall top outfield Juan Soto to take Kendrick’s roster spot. Zuckerman suggests that veteran first basemen Matt Adams and Mark Reynolds could also slide to left field in a pinch. That would get a good bat in the lineup, but it would cost Washington defensively.
The Nationals have managed to weather the storm so far. Despite losing both games of Saturday’s doubleheader, they’re 24-20 and still within striking distance in the NL East standings. Another injury though is the last thing they needed. If they don’t start getting some players back healthy soon, staying in the mix could be a challenge.
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