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Washington Nationals news & notes: Facing Sandy Alcantara again; Joey Meneses hits another homer + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability in Miami...

Not Alcantara Again:

Back on April 26th in D.C., Sandy Alcantara held the Nationals to a run on six hits over six innings of work on the mound, and he followed up on the dominant outing with an eight-inning start against the Marlins’ NL East rivals at home in Miami in which he gave a run on three hits.

On June 8th, it was a complete game shutout for the 27-year-old Fish right-hander, and on September 18th he gave up a run on seven hits in another complete game in the Nationals’ ballpark..

Going into that game, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked about how he’d recommend his young club attack the Marlins’ ace.

“For me it’s just — hey, look, the big thing about Sandy is we know he’s going to be around the strike zone, so you can’t really sit there and just wait, because he’s going to pump strikes, so kind of be aggressive early, and get a ball that you can hit, and put a good swing on it. You don’t have to swing overly hard, just try to make good, solid contact.”

Six of the Nationals’ seven hits in the game were singles, and he needed just 103 pitches to get through the outing, with eight swinging and 18 called strikes in the start. Were the Nats’ hitters a little too aggressive?

“You look at his numbers with two strikes, I mean, he’s really good, so you want to get up there and you want to be aggressive in the strike zone early in the count,” Martinez said in his post game press conference that day.

“But once again, like I said, when you do that, you know his pitch count is going to be very low. But like I said, we had some good at-bats today.”

“You got to be ready to hit every pitch,” the Nats’ skipper added.

“He makes some good pitches. As you could see, late in the game he was throwing 101. But he pounds the strike zone with everything. He’s got a two-seamer, he’s got a four-seamer, he’s got a really good changeup, and a slider, so he’s a tough guy to face. I thought we did a good job of hanging in there all day today, but man, when you face him you’ve got to battle.”

“I think we get him again in Miami, so we got to be ready for him.”

His advice going into the fifth matchup of the year with the righty?

“I just want them to get the ball in the strike zone today,” Martinez said Saturday afternoon, “and hey, you’ve got to be aggressive with him, he’s going to be around the strike zone, so I thought we hit the ball well against him last time, we just couldn’t score, and his pitch count was down so he ended up going a complete game. We’ve got to be aggressive and hopefully today we’ll put a bunch of hits together and get some runs.”

How’d the Nationals do this time around against the righty, who started Saturday night with a 0.84 ERA and a .200/.252/.218 line against in four starts and 32 IP against Washington this season?

Joey Meneses homered off the Marlins’ starter with two out in the first, connecting for the Nationals’ first home run and fourth run off Alcantara this summer, but the starter went a total of eight innings on 99 pitches, striking out 11 of 28 batters he faced, and collecting 21 swinging strikes (12 on his changeup), and 15 called strikes (seven on his sinker) in another dominant outing.

“He’s good,” Martinez said after the Nats’ 4-1 loss to the Fish. “That changeup is effective the way it is. It’s a great pitch. Hey, look, we hung in there.”

But the Nationals couldn’t get much going against Alcantara, and when they did, like when they put two on with no one out while trailing 2-1 in the second, the starter worked his way out of trouble.

“We had an inning there where we had [two on], no outs and couldn’t move the baseball,” he added at another point. “But look, he’s in our division.

“We’re going to face him next year again. We’ve got to get ready and get prepared to hit him.”

“We know he’s going to be around the plate, so you got to get ready to hit and get the ball in the zone.”

More Meneses Love:

Joey Meneses finished the Nationals’ recently-completed three-game series with the Braves 7 for 12 (.583/.643/.917) with a double and a home run in Atlanta, Georgia, which gave him a .328/.364/.563 line, 12 doubles, and 10 home runs in 43 games and 187 plate appearances since the 30-year-old outfielder and first baseman was called up to make his MLB debut back on August 2nd. Meneses took the long road to the majors, but he’s making the most of his hard-earned opportunity.

“He came in — this guy, he endured a lot over the years, he gets an opportunity to come in and play in the big leagues, and he’s been awesome. He really has,” Davey Martinez said in his pregame press conference before Friday night’s series opener in Miami.

“I love watching him play, and I love the guy, the person that he is. I mean, he comes in ready to play every day. I’ve always said he’s a student of the game.

“I know he’s a little bit older, but he’s still learning and he wants to learn, and he’s been good.

“He’s helped our offense tremendously, so, I just want him to continue to do what he’s doing and finish up strong.”

Meneses started the first of three with the Marlins 0 for 3, but he doubled to drive in a run in the eighth, giving him hits in 35 of 44 games played in the majors.

The fact he’s doing what he’s doing as a 30-year-old rookie, after working his way up over 10 years in the minors and playing internationally just adds to the feel-good aspect of the story.

“You just don’t know in this game, right?” Martinez said.

“But I’m glad he’s here. Like I said, he’s got an opportunity, he’s making the best of it, and I wish him all the best moving forward. I really do. And I think this guy — you think, ‘Well, how long can you do this?’ But every day he goes in there and he makes adjustments, in-game adjustments, and continues to hit.”

The most impressive aspect of Meneses’s run, the fifth-year skipper said, has been the way he’s able to adjust game-to-game, at-bat to at-bat, and even within at-bats.

“What I’m noticing is the in-game adjustments that he makes,” Martinez explained.

“They try to pound him in, he’s had some swings in there, he’s gotten balls on the ground.

“His next at-bat, he understands what they’re trying to do and he makes those adjustments and is able to either stay in the middle of the field, or turn on it.

“It’s kind of nice to watch him make those adjustments. It really is. Especially during the games like that.

“He knows the strike zone fairly well. He gets up there, he’s very aggressive, but he understands the balls that he can hit and he tries to stay in the middle of the field.”

Meneses hit his 11th HR of the season 360 feet to right field off of Sandy Alcantara the first time up in Miami last night, on a 99 MPH sinker inside he turned inside out for an opposite field blast which put the Nationals up early in what ended up a 4-1 loss to the Fish.

Meneses’s hit was one of three off Alcantara in the starter’s eight innings on the mound.

“It was awesome,” Martinez said of the home run. “He got ready early, and he drove a pretty good pitch by the way, to right field. So, it was a great at-bat.”

Meneses coming up with a big hit is nothing new of course, he’s been doing it since he got the call to the majors... and before he got the call, as his manager noted.

“He’s been really good for us all year long. And I’m not just talking about with us, I’m talking about the whole year. Even in Rochester he was very good, and he comes up here, and doesn’t miss a beat. That says a lot to me. He prepares himself every day, he studies the pitchers, and he’s got a plan when he goes up there.”

Mike Rizzo - Unplugged:

Mike Rizzo is always on. A GM’s job is never done. He lives just blocks from his job, within walking distance of his office in Nationals Park. Sleep? Free time? Overrated. There’s plenty of work to do, and always something else on the horizon. Even when the postseason ends, free agency begins, then the GM meetings, Winter Meetings, the Rule 5 Draft, then Spring Training, and the ramp-up for the new season. So when, if ever, does he get to unplug?

“It’s nearly impossible in today’s game to totally unplug,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past Wednesday, when asked if he ever gets a chance to unwind.

“There’s deadlines that happen like right after, five days after the season and that type of thing. You try to get away for a week or so around maybe the GM Meetings or the Winter Meetings, somewhere in-between there. But you’re never totally unplugged. It’s a labor of love, and it’s something that I love doing, and to me, if you love what you do, you’ve never worked a day in your life, so that’s how I feel.

“And we’re really looking forward to attacking this offseason, getting our team better, and getting back to being in those playoffs instead of watching them on TV.”