Meneses delivers Nats' first walk-off win with three-run homer (updated)

In years past, today’s result between the 44-86 Nationals and 49-82 Athletics would have been actually important. The finale of a three-game set between teams who have two of the worst records in the major leagues and split the first two matchups would have had draft-order implications for the following year.

But alas, the implementation of the MLB Draft lottery gives the three teams with the worst records an equal chance at next year’s No. 1 overall pick, rendering this just another getaway-day game between two bottom-feeders.

Whatever the stakes, the end result was an exciting 7-5 walk-off victory for the Nationals in 10 innings.

Who else but Joey "Four Bags" Meneses to deliver the game-winning blow?

With two runners on base in a 5-4 game in the 10th, the Nats' new slugging right fielder and No. 2 hitter stepped to the plate to hit a three-run homer for an extra-inning win.

“Very, very happy and excited," Meneses said after the celebration, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. "It's my first big league walk-off, something I'll always remember. So I'm very excited, very happy about it.”

It's also the Nationals’ first walk-off victory since Andrew Stevenson and Carter Kieboom hit back-to-back RBI singles off Edwin Díaz to walk off the Mets 4-3 on Sept. 6, 2021. And it's the Nats' first walk-off homer since Yadiel Hernandez hit one on Aug. 1, 2021 against the Cubs.

“It's a great adrenaline that I received. A lot of things ran through my mind. Very excited," Meneses said of his thoughts while rounding the bases. "I looked at home and saw all my teammates there, so it was just very, very exciting and emotional.”

After trading Juan Soto a month ago, the Nationals still have a right fielder who is crushing the ball. Instead of a 23-year-old superstar it's a 30-year-old rookie who spent 10 years in the minor leagues.

“It's very significant for me," he said. "All those years of playing in the minor leagues to get to this point and doing it at this moment, in this stage, it's just something that I'm gonna enjoy very much.”

Meneses is now hitting .354 with a 1.011 OPS over his first 25 major league games.

“He's been doing it all year," manager Davey Martinez said. "We've been watching him all year, even in Rochester, and he's been hitting all year long. And nothing's changed. That's one thing that I reiterate to him is nothing changes when you come up here. You drove the ball from right field to left field. Just do the same thing, stay on the ball. And he's been awesome.”

For a moment in the bottom of the ninth, it looked like César Hernández connected for his first home run of the season and the Nats’ first walk-off win of the year. But his fly ball fell short at the warning track in center field, sending the game to extras.

With the game tied 3-3 in the 10th, Hunter Harvey was one strike away from giving his team another chance at their first walk-off win of the season. Instead, he walked Vimael Machín to end a nine-pitch battle and continue the frame.

In the next at-bat, Shea Langeliers lined a two-run double to right-center field to give Oakland the apparent winning runs.

Keibert Ruiz drove a pinch-hit RBI single to make it a one-run game in the bottom of the inning to keep the Nationals alive.

A few hours before, Paolo Espino was as effective and efficient as ever while cruising through the A’s lineup. With his four-seam fastball comfortably sitting at 88 mph and his looping curveball inducing eight whiffs, he held the opposition to just two hits on 48 pitches over his first four innings.

His one mistake was laying one of those curveballs in the bottom half of the zone for Langeliers to golf into the visitors' bullpen leading off the fifth. But aside from that, Espino held the Athletics in check over his five innings and 66 pitches while striking out six and giving up the one run.

Espino finished 5 ⅓ innings on 89 pitches in his last start on Saturday. On normal rest, it was an interesting call by Davey Martinez to pull his starter that early and not give him a chance to finish six innings for the first time in almost a year.

Victor Arano pitched a scoreless sixth. But Jake McGee, pitching in relief of Espino for the second time over the last five days, was charged with two runs in the top of the seventh.

“He was good," Davey Martinez said of Espino. "The last couple of hitters, we saw once again, once the ball starts getting up on him, that's an indication for me that he's getting tired. Whether it's 60-some pitches or 80 pitches, that's a tall tale for me that he's getting a little tired. So yeah, we decided to go with the other guys.”

Before Meneses' heroics, the Nats offense could not provide enough run support to put Espino in line for his first win of the season. Facing 24-year-old lefty Ken Waldichuk in his major league debut, the Nationals put runners in scoring position in four of the five frames against him but only managed one run.

Lane Thomas doubled and Meneses singled him in to greet Waldichuk in his first major league at-bats and give the Nats a quick 1-0 lead. Meneses would eventually reach third with Nelson Cruz on second, but they would not score before the inning ended.

In the second, Alex Call, making his first start in over a week, led off with his first-career triple. But at third base he stayed while the next three batters struck out, grounded out and struck out, leaving it a one-run game.

In the third, the Nats managed to load the bases for Call, who popped out to left field to end another chance to increase the lead.

The game was tied 1-1 by the bottom of the fifth, and back-to-back two-out walks knocked Waldichuk from the game. But they did not result in runs, as the Nationals left their seventh and eighth runners on base.

With runners on the corners in the seventh, Cruz’s infield chopper was enough to push Meneses across the plate and cut the Nats’ deficit to 3-2. César Hernández was then hit by a pitch and stole second base to put him in position to score on Ildemaro Vargas’ RBI single, tying the game at 3-3 in the eighth.

But again, in the grand scheme of things, this game meant very little. It had no effect on current playoff pushes and didn’t change next year’s draft order.

The draft lottery is meant to deter teams from tanking, which is a good thing. But it also removes the significance of some of these September games, which isn’t always fun.

Nevertheless, this game was fun for the announced crowd of 26,877 at Nationals Park and the team in the home clubhouse.

“Yeah, it was awesome," Davey Martinez said. "Especially, we're leaving to go on a long road trip, so to win that last game at home, we'll hop on a train tonight and get ready to play New York tomorrow. But it was a great win. We finish up the (homestand) with a positive. We played .500 the last week or so. So it's been good. Like I said, these guys are playing hard.”

“A lot of happiness," Meneses said of his emotions after the homer. "It's just something very special. I've never hit a walk-off in the big league. So it's that vibe and just a lot of great emotions.”

As for how Meneses' teammates celebrated him in the clubhouse, Davey Martinez said with a smile: “He’s getting a beer shower.”

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