Game 55 lineups: Nats at Dodgers

irvin gray pitching

LOS ANGELES – It’s been a whirlwind first month in the big leagues for Jake Irvin, who probably wasn’t even supposed to be here so soon. The rookie right-hander was promoted from Triple-A Rochester at the start of the month and legitimately impressed in his first two starts, especially when he held the Giants scoreless for 6 1/3 innings May 8. Things have turned south since then for Irvin, who hasn’t been able to complete five innings in any of his last three starts and has issued four walks in each of his last two.

Tonight, Irvin faces perhaps his toughest challenge to date in a Dodgers lineup loaded with big names and firepower, in the hostile environment that is Chavez Ravine. He’ll need to keep his emotions in check, but more importantly, he’ll need to keep the ball in the vicinity of the plate while simultaneously not letting that lineup do too much damage.

The Nationals would love to provide Irvin with more run support than they gave Trevor Williams on Monday night. That challenge won’t be easy, either, with Tony Gonsolin and his 1.82 ERA on the mound for L.A. Davey Martinez has a new wrinkle tonight, though: Joey Meneses is playing the outfield for the first time this season, with Lane Thomas shifting to center field for the first time this season. The slumping Alex Call is on the bench, with Ildemaro Vargas playing left field and Corey Dickerson serving as DH.

Where: Dodger Stadium
Gametime: 10:10 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 62 degrees, wind 7 mph out to center field

CF Lane Thomas
2B Luis García
3B Jeimer Candelario
RF Joey Meneses
1B Dominic Smith
DH Corey Dickerson
C Keibert Ruiz
SS CJ Abrams
LF Ildemaro Vargas

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Meneses returns from paternity leave, Alu back to Triple-A

joey Meneses swings

Joey Meneses was hesitant to leave Washington with the rest of his Nationals teammates following Monday’s win over the Mets, given what was going on in his personal life. Though Meneses’ wife, Mitzy Guzman, wasn’t due to give birth to the couple’s first child until later in the month, she went to the hospital that day with some discomfort, only to be sent back home when doctors told her nothing appeared imminent.

So Meneses went to Miami and played in Tuesday night’s loss to the Marlins, going 0-for-3 with a walk. Then his phone rang at 4 a.m., and he heard the news: Guzman’s water had broken, and she was going back to the hospital in labor.

Meneses scrambled to get on the first available flight back home Wednesday morning. He did not, however, make it in time to witness the birth of Joseph Meneses Guzman.

“Unfortunately, the baby was born around 12:30, and I didn’t get there 'til about 2 o’clock,” Meneses shared today, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “By the time I landed and got through the airport and everything, I got here a little later than I wanted.”

“That’s OK,” Meneses added in English with a wide smile. “He’s healthy and good.”

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Meneses placed on paternity list, Alu recalled from Rochester

alu stands cherry

MIAMI – There was a noticeable change in the Nationals clubhouse at loanDepot Park this afternoon. Jake Alu had a locker and Joey Meneses didn’t.

At first, it seemed like a curious development. But it turns out to be a joyous roster move.

The Nationals announced that Meneses has been placed on the paternity list with his fiancé, Mitzy Guzman, giving birth to the couple’s first child, Joseph, today. Alu rejoins the Nats to take his spot on the roster.

“Joey went on their (paternity) list today,” manager Davey Martinez said to begin his pregame media session. “His wife's expecting, so we will find out more here hopefully soon. Jake Alu is on his way. So when we get him here, we'll make that move.”

Meneses is eligible to return to the active roster on Saturday against the Tigers.

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Meneses' numbers climbing as power begins to return


No, Joey Meneses hasn’t come close to duplicating his remarkable two-month debut for the Nationals late last season. But the 31-year-old hasn’t come close to falling completely flat, either.

It may have taken him a while to find his swing again, but Meneses is now producing at the plate in a manner that suggests his out-of-nowhere August and September of 2022 wasn’t a total mirage. With a four-hit, three-double, four-RBI performance Monday in a 10-3 thumping of the Mets, he raised his batting average to an even .300, his OPS to a respectable .722.

“That’s what I’m looking for,” Meneses said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “I’m just getting that confidence that I had last season and I’m helping the team on the offensive side.”

Meneses still isn’t hitting for a ton of power. The man who wowed the baseball world with 13 homers and a .563 slugging percentage in his first 56 major league games has hit only two balls out of the park while slugging .394 in his first 40 games this season.

But there are encouraging signs, and they keep growing in number each day. Over his last 27 games, Meneses is batting .345 with 20 RBIs and an .809 OPS. He is starting to pull the ball in the air with some consistency for the first time this year, from his go-ahead homer 10 days ago in Arizona to two of his run-scoring doubles in Monday’s win.

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Nats thump Mets with sustained offense, split series (updated)

abrams salutes from second

There is little reason to believe that, come season’s end, the Nationals and Mets will be anywhere near each other in the National League East standings. The rebuilding Nats are supposed to finish at the bottom of the division. The $330 million Mets are supposed to challenge for the division title and play deep into October.

But the season is now 25 percent complete, and the difference between the two clubs is 1 1/2 games. In part because the Nats have now beaten the Mets in four of their seven head-to-head matchups after today’s 10-3 thumping in the finale of a wraparound series on South Capitol Street.

"It was a good series," manager Davey Martinez said. "These guys, they've been playing hard. Let's forget about the first week of the season (when they went 1-6 against the Braves and Rays). We've been playing really well. I want them to take that into consideration. Not just playing one team. But understanding where we're at and what we're doing. It's been fun. They're playing with a lot of energy."

The Nationals have more than held their own against New York, taking two of three last month at Citi Field and now splitting this four-game series. They’ve done so with quality pitching, some improved offensive punch and a whole lot of CJ Abrams.

Abrams was back at it this afternoon, launching a solo homer into the second deck in right field in the sixth inning, his latest blast in a recent power surge by the 22-year-old shortstop. Abrams now has hit four homers this season, three of them against the Mets, two of them in the last two days. He’s suddenly tied with Lane Thomas and Jeimer Candelario for the team lead in homers, and he leads the team with 22 RBIs despite typically batting ninth.

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Garcia's red-hot trip, Meneses' surge, Kuhl's rehab


SAN FRANCISCO – Hits are coming in bunches for Luis García right now. The Nationals will happily take them from their young second baseman.

With a 2-for-5 showing Monday night during the Nats’ 5-1 win over the Giants, García continued a torrid week at the plate. He’s now 10-for-18 on this West Coast road trip, having produced multiple hits in each of the team’s four games to date.

García’s offensive surge has actually been going on longer than that, though. On the morning of April 27, he sported a weak .209/.260/.328 slash line, leaving him with a paltry .589 OPS. In 12 games since, he has slashed a robust .378/.408/.556, raising his season OPS to .739. That actually ranks tops among all active regulars in the Nationals lineup through 35 games.

What changed?

“I changed a little bit; I raised my hands a little bit, and that’s helped,” García said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “But to be honest, I think it’s just the work. Putting in the work to maintain my focus out there every at-bat. I’m going to keep working and keep my focus the same as it’s always out there on every at-bat.”

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Nats storm back again, this time hold on to win (updated)

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PHOENIX – The way it happened Saturday night, with a five-run rally in the top of the ninth wiped out by disaster in the bottom of the ninth, it felt like a soul-crushing development for the Nationals. The kind of loss that sits with a team for days.

That does not, however, appear to be the character of this particular team. Because when presented with an opportunity to do the exact same thing this afternoon at Chase Field, the Nationals once again stormed back, getting a titanic, three-run homer from Joey Meneses in the top of the ninth to take the lead.

And this time, they turned to Hunter Harvey to close out a scintillating, 9-8 victory over the Diamondbacks.

"These guys have got a bunch of heart," manager Davey Martinez said. "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."

Taking over for Kyle Finnegan as closer, at least for the day, Harvey pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth to secure the win and the long-awaited first save of his injury-plagued career.

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Thomas gets first day off, Meneses back to DH

meneses gray

MINNEAPOLIS – Two members of the Nationals lineup started each of the season’s first 20 games. Only one of them will have started each of the first 21 games.

Lane Thomas is not playing today’s series finale against the Twins, the right fielder finally getting a chance to rest more than three weeks after Opening Day.

“Just felt like giving him a day off today,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I’ve been wanting to give him a day off, so I thought today would be a good day for him.”

Thomas has been perhaps the team’s most consistent hitter so far, though he has cooled off in recent days. Owner of a .323 batting average through the first 16 games, he’s gone two for his last 17 with seven strikeouts, including three during Saturday’s 10-4 win at Target Field.

The 27-year-old talked this spring about his desire to get off to a strong start, recognizing how streaky he was last season. He’s been pleased with the way he’s put together quality at-bats for the most part this month.

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Nats stay hot in the cold, beat Twins for first series win (updated)

Jeimer Candelario gray cold

MINNEAPOLIS – As the mercury dropped to 35 degrees – remarkably 2 degrees colder than it was Friday night for what temporarily stood as the coldest game in club history – the Nationals bundled up in long sleeves, gloves, hoodies, balaclavas, anything they could find to protect themselves from the elements and took the field this afternoon in search of the kind of offense that has eluded them throughout the season’s first 20 games.

And then a funny thing happened. They scored two runs in the top of the first. Then two more in the top of the second. And they just kept going and going until they walked out of Target Field with a resounding 10-4 victory over the Twins and their stunned (and well-compensated) ace.

Who cares what the thermometer read. The Nationals inexplicably have been at their best this month the colder it’s been. Their best offensive display to date had come in Colorado, which of course also has the added benefit of thin air. Now they’ve won two games in a row in Minnesota despite the ever-present threat of snow flurries, and in the process secured their first series victory of the young season. On Sunday, they'll attempt to complete their first three-game sweep since June 2021.

"If we keep playing like this," manager Davey Martinez said, "I hope it's 20 degrees for the next four months."

That probably won't be happening without a massive shift in global warming trends, so eventually the Nationals will have to learn how to hit on a hot day. But for now, it's been a winning formula, Friday night via a late rally to eke out a 3-2 win. Today’s came far more comfortably, with offensive fireworks both early and late, and contributors up and down the lineup.

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Meneses gets chance to play first base, Ruiz gets chance to sit

Joey Meneses throws gray

MINNEAPOLIS – The role of designated hitter can be tougher than it sounds, especially for someone who has spent most of his career playing a position in the field but then finds himself only batting four times a game and watching the rest of the game from the dugout.

It’s admittedly been an adjustment for Joey Meneses through the first month of this season. Having played either first base or the outfield most of his professional life, the 30-year-old has become the Nationals’ everyday DH.

Perhaps that has something to do with Meneses’ slow start at the plate. He enters this afternoon’s game against the Twins batting .227/.266/.333 through his first 18 games, and he just finally hit his first home run Friday night.

“He’s trying to develop a routine DHing,” manager Davey Martinez said. “It’s tough when you’re DHing every day to find a routine, when you’ve never done it before.”

With that in mind, Martinez decided to have Meneses and Dominic Smith switch roles this afternoon. Though Smith is the superior defensive player, he’ll serve as DH and give Meneses a chance to play first base and keep himself more engaged in the game.

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Nats break through with late rally for chilly win over Twins (updated)


MINNEAPOLIS - Combine the coldest lineup in the majors with the coldest gametime temperature in club history, and it could not have taken anyone by surprise to see nothing but zeroes on the scoreboard for six innings tonight at Target Field.

Did you really expect these Nationals to get hot on a 37-degree April night in the Great White North?

Well, actually, yeah. It just took a while to finally happen.

But once it did, once Joey Meneses launched his first homer of the season in the seventh, and once Lane Thomas and Keibert Ruiz delivered back-to-back two-out RBI singles in the eighth, everything was OK again for the Nationals, who exchanged high-fives and handshakes on the field and then quickly bolted for the heated clubhouse to further celebrate a much-needed, 3-2 victory over the Twins.

"We were huddled under our one little heater we've got out there (in the bullpen)," closer Kyle Finnegan said. "Taking the lead there definitely gets us going. You start moving around, get the juices flowing a little bit. It's exciting. Take the lead late in a game and then shut it down to get the win? You've got to enjoy a win like that."

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After long wait, Meneses savors first Opening Day in majors

Joey Meneses fives white

Imagine waiting 12 years to reach your goal. You grind year in and year out, and still come up short for 12 years.

But when you finally reach it, it’s well worth the wait.

That was Joey Meneses’ grind through 12 years of baseball in the minor leagues and abroad. The 30-year-old finally reached his dream of playing in the major leagues last August when he was brought up from Triple-A Rochester as one of the replacements for Juan Soto and Josh Bell after the two were traded at the deadline.

On Thursday, he reached another long-awaited milestone of his major league career: Opening Day.

“Very, very exciting,” Meneses said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez, after the Nationals’ 7-2 loss in the first game of the season. “It's one of those moments you want to live as a ballplayer, and thank God I was able to live it.”

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Bogar affirms that Nats value versatility


The writing has been on the wall all offseason. Baseball has changed over recent years, and the Nationals have committed to adapting to it.

Versatility is the name of the game.

Gone are the days managers would trot out the same eight defenders in their same designated positions along with a starting pitcher expected to go seven or eight innings every day over the course of a 162-game season.

Now it’s all about getting more bang for your buck. Can a player fill multiple roles? Can he play all over the infield, or both the infield and the outfield? Can a fringe starting pitcher also be a swing man out of the bullpen?

Find a way to keep your best players fresh and on the field as much as possible based on what the matchups dictate.

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Coles believes Meneses' late success is sustainable

meneses swing white

Joey Meneses took the Nationals and the major leagues by storm over the season’s final two months last year. The 30-year-old rookie had spent 10 years in the minors, Mexican and Japanese professional leagues before having his contract selected by the Nationals and making his major league debut on Aug. 2 against the Mets.

Not many people knew who Meneses was when he was introduced as the starting first baseman batting sixth that night at Nationals Park. Most fans were still lamenting over the trade that sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres earlier that day.

But Meneses made sure Nats fans knew who he was by the end of the game, hitting a leadoff home run in the bottom of the seventh to secure a 5-1 win over the first-place Mets. With that longball, he became the first Mexican-born player and the fifth-oldest player in major league history to homer in his major league debut.

And he never looked back.

From that point on, Meneses was second in the National League with 72 hits, a .324 average and a .930 OPS. He was tied for fourth in the league with 13 home runs and tied for fifth with 27 extra-base hits.

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How can Nats improve defensively in 2023?

CJ Abrams Luis Garcia gray celebrate

Davey Martinez knew what he was getting into during the 2022 season, his fifth as manager of the Nationals. In the first full year of the Nats’ rebuild, he wouldn’t have the most talented roster in the major leagues and they wouldn’t win a lot of games. But he at least expected his players to give their best efforts and make fundamental plays every night.

The effort was always there. The same cannot be said about the fundamentals.

It was a roster filled with inexperienced players and journeyman veterans during a season in which development was the focus. Still, it seemed like the Nationals too often had difficulty with even the most basic plays, especially on defense and on the basepaths. Common signs of a rebuilding team.

The Nationals finished the season with a -39 defensive rating and -47 defensive runs saved as a team, both second-worst in the majors per FanGraphs. However, they did fare slightly better in ultimate zone rating, another widely used defensive metric, at -8.8, which ranked 21st in the majors.

So how can the Nats improve defensively in 2023? Aside from the obvious solutions of practicing in spring training, making routine plays, acquiring better defenders to fill out the roster and perhaps even pitching better, they could benefit simply by players playing in their proper positions for the majority of the season.

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Looking back on a disappointing yet memorable Nats season


While speaking to reporters in New York a few days ago to wrap up the 2022 regular season, general manager Mike Rizzo said this year was a “disappointment” for the Nationals.

That should be a given after the Nats finished with the worst record in the major leagues at 55-107, setting a new club record for the most losses in a single season.

When we look back on the 2022 Nationals season, we probably won’t do so fondly. There was a lot of bad. But there was also some good. Put them both together and you get a memorable season for better or worse.

Looking at some of the final results, it is mostly bad. As bad as we’ve ever seen in Washington baseball.

At no point during the regular season did the Nationals reach the .500 mark. Their longest winning streak was only three games, which they accomplished five times. Their longest losing streak was nine games from July 7-16. They never swept a series and were swept 12 times. They were shut out 12 times and only shut out their opponents four times. They were walked off five times and only walked off twice, both not coming until September. And they by far had the worst run differential in the majors at -252.

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Game 159 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

patrick corbin blue

The Nationals and Phillies have been able to play three games so far this weekend. They have one more scheduled today to wrap up this four-game series and the home portion of the 2022 regular season at Nats Park.

The forecast isn’t great for today, but it looks like it’s mostly light rain this afternoon, which they might be able to play through. If not, we could either be here for a long time or back on Thursday if the National League wild card isn’t settled. 

Patrick Corbin makes his last start of the season today and fourth against the Phillies, who have been really good against him. The left-hander is 0-3 with a 10.97 ERA, 2.625 WHIP and six home runs allowed in 10 ⅓ innings against the Phils.

Zack Wheeler makes his second start against the Nationals this year. He held them to one run over seven innings in a win at Nats Park on June 16. He’s 9-14 with a 4.44 ERA in 27 career starts against the Nats.

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 The Fan,
Weather: Rain, 57 degrees, wind 13 mph in from left-center field 

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Meneses’ go-ahead homer helps Nats salvage series finale in Atlanta (updated)

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ATLANTA - Like a library desperate for an overdue rental, the Nationals were making empty threats, lacking the power to follow through. 

Washington had scored just five total runs and gone a combined 4-for-22 with runners in scoring position over the last three games, all losses. 

But Wednesday in Atlanta, the Nats finally broke through, and all it took was one mighty swing from Joey Meneses. 

The 30-year-old rookie mashed a two-run homer onto the second deck in left field in the seventh inning, turning around what was then a 2-1 game and helping the Nationals (52-97) take the series finale over the Braves (93-56) by a final of 3-2. 

"I can't say enough about what Joey's been doing since he came here," manager Davey Martinez said after the win. "He's been hitting doubles, homers, getting on base, playing good defense."

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Nats' bats scuffle again, Corbin exits in 3-2 loss to Braves (updated)

Nats' bats scuffle again, Corbin exits in 3-2 loss to Braves (updated)

ATLANTA - Patrick Corbin took an exceptionally long time between pitches. He shuffled his feet, kicked some dirt and adjusted his belt ever so slowly before turning around and motioning to the second base umpire.

Something wasn’t quite right.

Corbin left with back spasms in the first inning of Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Braves after throwing just 12 pitches. After throwing a 76-mph slider high and outside to Matt Olson and fidgeting around the rubber, the lefty was greeted by manager Davey Martinez and head athletic trainer Paul Lessard.

Corbin, who leads the Nationals (51-97) in both starts and innings pitched, stretched his back before taking a slow walk to the visitors' dugout.

"He just threw a pitch and (his back) tightened up on him," Martinez said after the game. "We watched him, he started trying to stretch. We went out there and he said it just cramped up on him. ... As he was getting back on the mound, he said he couldn't get loose, so the smart thing to do is just get him out of there."

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30-year-old rookie Joey Meneses brings savvy to Nats clubhouse

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ATLANTA - When Joey Meneses signed with the Atlanta Braves, he was three days from his 19th birthday. It was May 2011, and Truist Park was six years from being built.

Eleven years later, a 30-year-old Meneses played his first game in Atlanta, wearing the uniform of the Braves’ division rivals. He went 4-for-4 with four singles, raising his batting average to .325 through his first 41 career big league games. 

“The whole time I was playing in the minors to get to this point, to get this opportunity,” Meneses said through interpreter Octavio Martinez after Monday’s game. “I just want to do as well as possible up here and, hopefully, remain here as long as possible.”

Meneses’ Baseball-Reference page can’t be read without scrolling several times. His career includes stops in Mexico, Japan and four major league organizations, spanning 12 years.

There were plenty of good seasons in there. His final season in the Braves organization came in 2017, when he hit .292 with a .763 OPS for Double-A Mississippi at age 25. After signing with the Phillies that winter, Meneses hit .311 with 23 home runs and an .870 OPS for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

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