Few expected Joey Meneses to match his gaudy .930 OPS from his rookie season, but his pregame OPS was down to .622 for this season. That won’t cut it for a full-time DH. Many thought that he would continue his power especially after his heroics in the World Baseball Classic in March. But the 2023 baseball season had Meneses with just one home run in the team’s first 33 games. Return Meneses to the site of his two huge home runs for Team Mexico in the WBC just two months ago in this same building, and he put the Nats’ in the win column with one swing of the bat and a 3-run homer in the ninth inning — a much-needed salvage win for the Washington Nationals.
Did we mention it was Meneses’ 31st birthday yesterday? You know what his birthday wish was, right?
“A little bit late,” Meneses said in his postgame interview. “But definitely a birthday present.”
Before this game, things were so bad for Meneses’ stats that he had fewer home runs than the Nats’ starting shortstop who did not hit one last year for the Nats. Now Meneses and CJ Abrams are tied with two homers each. But to be honest, Meneses at the DH should be hitting home runs at a much greater pace, and he knows it.
After Matt Adams hit his 7th homer earlier today for the Nats’ Triple-A Rochester affiliate, more than any Nats’ player, I thought it was fair to question a move to bring up Adams for Meneses. A reverse lock for sure as Meneses came through with his biggest hit of this season. On a contending team, a GM might have already made a move. On a building team, you get more rope.
You know that Meneses had to hear the whispers that his team wasn’t happy with his lack of power this season, so far. Meneses has minor league options, meaning he could be sent back to Triple-A. Baseball is not an easy game — and little is guaranteed. It is a sport of “what have you done for me lately?” Any chatter of sending him down was immediately quieted.
“When I went to that at-bat, I was looking for the slider. Yesterday, [Miguel Castro] threw me a sinker that I was able to connect fairly well. It didn’t fall for a hit, but I hit it well. In the back of my head, I was expecting him to throw the slider [tonight], so I was waiting on it.
I have very good memories of this ballpark. Especially after today’s home run.”— Meneses said to the media after the game
The birthday boy needed that home run, and so did his team, especially after Lane Thomas hit a similar go-ahead blast last night, only to see his team lose after a demoralizing blown-save that turned into a walk-off loss to the Diamondbacks. On this night, it was payback.
“These guys have got a bunch of heart. They’re playing together. They feel like they’re never out of it, and today’s another good example. They fought back and put up some big numbers again.”— manager Dave Martinez to the media after the game
After the Meneses 3-run homer, the Nats had to close the game out with a one-run lead in a 9-8 game with a reliever with no career saves. Fortunately, Hunter Harvey threw a scoreless final frame to seal the win for the Nats, and earn Harvey that first career save. He joins his father, Bryan Harvey, in the “save” club. The younger Harvey considered quitting baseball due to his injuries and said his father helped change his mind. Once a prized top prospect starter of the Baltimore Orioles, the Nats claimed him off waivers last year.
This roster is made up of so many interesting stories, and circuitous routes to all end up on this team. We have told the Meneses story before in great detail.
For a Nats’ team that has been so deprived of home runs, and especially key home runs, they found the longball magic in the 9th innings four times since Thursday with Alex Call‘s walk-off, the Keibert Ruiz and Thomas home runs last night, and the Meneses home run tonight. Four different players showing up big. What might surprise even Nats’ fans is that their team now has seven home runs in the ninth inning this year. Ruiz now has two ninth inning clutch dingers to lead the team in that stat.
With this win, the Nats put an 0-19 record this season behind them when trailing after the eighth inning. It feels nice collaring the other team with a blown-save loss for once.
Onto San Francisco is where the team is headed next.