Another off-day for Meneses as Vargas enters lineup

PHILADELPHIA – The Nationals are trying to get Joey Meneses right.

Despite a lack of power from the everyday designated hitter, Meneses has been one of the Nats’ more consistent hitters this year.

He enjoyed a career-best 18-game on-base streak from May 21 to June 11, during which he slashed .357/.430/.443 with an .873 OPS, four doubles, one triple, 10 RBI and nine walks to eight strikeouts.

But since that streak ended, he is slashing a paltry .179/.190/.250 with a .440 OPS, four doubles, seven RBIs and one walk to a staggering 18 strikeouts.

So for the fourth time in just over two weeks, Meneses will take a seat as the Nationals face Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler after he only missed a combined three games over the first 66 of the season (two of those games when he was placed on the paternity list for the birth of his first child).

In his place, the left-handed-hitting Corey Dickerson will serve as the DH while the switch-hitting Ildemaro Vargas plays left field.

“Just want to get another lefty in there against Wheeler,” manager Davey Martinez said this afternoon before the Nats go for their fourth straight win. “Joey right now has gotten into a little bit of a funk. But the key was to get as many lefties as we can against Wheeler.”

Meneses’ numbers with runners in scoring position were so good he still ranks as one of the most clutch hitters in the majors. His .413 average with RISP ranks second in the National League. And even as a right-handed hitter, he still crushes right-handed pitching to the tune of a major league-best .491 average (27-for-55) against righties with RISP.

But the Nationals still want him to get back to what made him so successful in May and the early part of June.

“He's working on trying to stay in his legs a little bit better,” Martinez said. “He's getting jumpy out there. He's starting to chase a lot. So we're trying to get him to stay back and use his hands like he was in the beginning of the year.”

As for Vargas, it’s always hard to tell whether or not he’s preparing to be in the starting lineup or enjoying a planned off-day on any given day. Starting for just the sixth time in over a month and only the fourth time in left field this year, the seven-year veteran was running around the Nats clubhouse, playing music on the big speaker, yelling his signature "¡Campeón!" greeting and engaging in dance-offs with teammates before today's game (highlighted by a particularly vivacious dance-off with CJ Abrams to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”).

“That's 24/7 with that guy,” Martinez laughed. “He's full of energy. He loves the game. He loves his teammates. So he comes out and comes ready. But when he doesn't play, he brings the energy every day for us.”

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