Anthony Rendon knows how to take advantage of a second chance.
Rendon hit his first major league home run following Nick Swisher’s ninth-inning error to propel the Washington Nationals to a 7-6 win over Cleveland on Saturday night.
It’s easy to see why Rendon was smiling following the good fortune that literally fell his way after his foul popup landed between Swisher and Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis.
Asked if he thought he was going to be out on the play, Rendon laughed and said, ”Yeah. It was a popup. I thought (Swisher) was going to catch it. I thought it was actually going to be fair. That’s why I kept running.”
Two pitches after his reprieve, Rendon homered into the Nationals’ bullpen off Vinnie Pestano (1-2) to stun the Indians and the crowd of 33,307.
”I guess it’s not a bad one to get on the board with,” Rendon said. ”I don’t even know how to explain it.”
Swisher and Kipnis both drifted into foul territory and it appeared either could have made the catch, but neither player appeared to call for it and the ball fell to the ground. Swisher was charged with the error. Instead of being the third out, Rendon got another opportunity.
”That shouldn’t happen to us but it did and it cost us the game,” Swisher said. ”It was a little miscommunication. It was something we handled already.”
Kipnis took his share of the blame.
”He thought I had it, and I thought he had it,” Kipnis said. ”Looking back on it, I needed to take more charge of it because it was probably the second baseman’s ball.”
Drew Storen (1-1) pitched the eighth for the win while Rafael Soriano worked the ninth for his 18th save. Mike Aviles doubled with two outs, but first baseman Adam LaRoche made a leaping catch of Michael Bourn’s line drive to end the interleague game.
The Indians trailed 5-0 in the third but scored six unanswered runs to take the lead until Chad Tracy’s pinch-hit home run off Joe Smith tied the game in the eighth.
Michael Brantley’s two-run double in the fifth, along with solo homers by Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds in the fifth, fueled Cleveland’s comeback from a 5-0 deficit.
The Indians rallied against Jordan Zimmerman, who couldn’t hold the lead and was denied his 10th win of the season. Santana and Reynolds hit back-to-back homers in the fourth before Cleveland scored three times in the fifth, taking the lead on Brantley’s two-run double.
”When those guys give me five runs like that I’ve got to be able to lock it down,” Zimmerman said. ”We got the win. Tracey and Rendon came through and got the big home runs but it was just terrible on my part.”
”To come back after having a pretty good lead, everybody feels good about themselves,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
Solo home runs by Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond, followed by a two-run third, staked Washington to an early lead, but Jordan Zimmerman allowed six runs in five innings.
Cleveland starter Scott Kazmir gave up five runs, including three homers, in 2 2-3 innings, but Washington was held in check until Tracy, batting for Chris Marrero, homered into Cleveland’s bullpen with two outs in the eighth. Tracy has eight career pinch-hit home runs, including two this season.
Ryan Zimmerman and Werth hit back-to-back homers to dead center in the first. Desmond led off the second with a line drive down the left field line that cleared the 19-foot high wall.
Kazmir didn’t get through the third when Washington added two runs. A double and two walks loaded the bases with nobody out. LaRoche bounced into a double play that scored Rendon. Kazmir’s wild pitch on ball four to Desmond scored Zimmerman and ended Kazmir’s night. It was his shortest outing of the season.
Jordan Zimmerman, who hadn’t allowed an earned run in his previous two starts, didn’t give up a hit until Mike Aviles doubled with one out in the third. Kipnis’ two-out single scored Cleveland’s first run.
The right-hander retired the first two hitters in the fourth before Santana homered to right. Reynolds, who entered the game in a 2-for-23 slump, broke a homerless streak of 13 straight games with a blast that landed halfway up the bleachers in left field.
Zimmerman continued to labor in the fifth. Aviles singled with one out and scored on Swisher’s single up the middle. Brantley’s double into the gap in right-center gave Cleveland a 6-5 lead.
The Nationals had won four of five going into the series.
NOTES: RHP Stephen Strasburg will make his first start since May 31 when he pitches in Sunday’s series finale. He sustained a strained a back muscle in his last appearance and will be activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game. Johnson said Strasburg won’t be on a strict pitch limit. … Strasburg (3-5) will face RHP Corey Kluber (3-3). … Indians RHP Chris Perez (shoulder tendinitis) will pitch one inning on a minor league assignment for Class A Lake County on Sunday. Perez spoke to the media Saturday, but took no questions about being charged with misdemeanor drug possession after marijuana was mailed to his home earlier this month. … Johnson said OF Bryce Harper developed a little puffiness in his sore left knee after doing some lower body exercises. Harper might begin baseball-related activities in a few days.