Joey Meneses, with more than 3,000 at-bats in the minors, has made the most of his chance since the Nationals called him up to play first. He blasted his fourth home run in seven games, a majestic 422-foot drive in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s contest at Wrigley Field. His homer couldn’t overcome another late-game collapse, as the Cubs rallied for four runs in the seventh for a 4-2 win, sending Washington (37-76) to its seventh loss in eight games.
After the loss, Meneses was asked if he expected this kind of power output once he reached the majors.
“Not at all,” he said. “I was just going to try to get in there do the best I could when the opportunity was given to me and thank God I’ve been taking advantage of it.”
Meneses has made a handful of stops in his professional baseball career since signing a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves in 2011. He’s played 10 years in the minors and a few extra in the Mexican League. This season with Class AAA Rochester, he hit 20 home runs, power that continues to be on display since joining the Nationals.
He hit a home run in his debut and added three more in this series — a pinch-hit, two-run shot on Monday and a go-ahead, two-run homer on Tuesday before his solo shot Wednesday afternoon against the Cubs (45-65).
His blast gave the Nationals a 2-0 lead. Washington broke on top in the third when César Hernández hit a blooper that bounced over the head of a sliding Rafael Ortega in center field. The ball rolled past him, allowing Tres Barrera to score from first base.
Meneses’s recent performance, albeit a small sample size, could earn him a chance to stick around with the Nationals in some capacity beyond this year. That would likely be in a bench utility role as a first baseman with the ability to play some outfield, though it’s not his ideal position. Still, with a struggling offense post-trade deadline, Meneses will likely remain in the heart of the order.
“I feel like, up here, you have a little bit more energy and more motivation, obviously,” Meneses said. “But I feel that I’ve been doing it [in the minors] all year long and hopefully I continue to do it.”
How did the Cubs score in the seventh? It started when Nico Hoerner hit a solo shot off Josiah Gray, who leads the major leagues with 29 home runs allowed. Gray hadn’t allowed a run over six innings before the homer and exited after allowing a single to former Nationals catcher Yan Gomes. Gray struck out five over 6⅓ innings and, most notably, he didn’t walk anyone.
Steve Cishek replaced him and walked P.J. Higgins, the first batter he faced. Nick Madrigal hit a game-tying single; both he and Higgins advanced on a throwing error by Victor Robles — an airmail of a throw to the plate.
“Once [Robles] threw it, I watched his reaction, he knew that ball should’ve been down,” Manager Dave Martinez said. “You just got to understand the portion of the game and that’s something he needs to start learning. You can’t just come up there and fire the ball.”
Robles’s error proved costly when Higgins scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Cubs the lead. Ian Happ singled to drive in Madrigal, accounting for the final margin.
Why was Luis García scratched before Wednesday’s game? García experienced right knee soreness before the game and was replaced in the lineup by Ildemaro Vargas, who was initially penciled in at third base.
How close is Erick Fedde to returning to the rotation? Soon. Fedde (right shoulder inflammation) threw an extended bullpen on Tuesday and is scheduled to make a simulated start next week. If all goes well, Martinez hopes to fit Fedde back into the rotation once he comes off the 15-day injured list.
Who was optioned after Wednesday’s game and what’s the latest on the bullpen? Mason Thompson. The move sending Thompson to Class AAA Rochester was to clear space for left-handed reliever Jake McGee, who will join the team Friday in Washington.
Will Harris suffered a groin injury while rehabbing in Rochester, so he’s likely to miss time. This injury is another setback for Harris, who has pitched in just 28 games since being signed to a three-year, $24 million deal before the 2020 season. He underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in June 2021 and right pectoral surgery March 31, but hoped to make his return at the end of the season.
Tyler Clippard is currently on the 15-day IL with a groin strain, but threw two scoreless innings Tuesday night and has made three appearances in Rochester. He could also rejoin the Nationals’ bullpen soon.