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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats win first series of season; Joey Meneses & a 4-hit game...

Notes and quotes from Saturday afternoon’s win over the Twins in Target Field...

Meneses Starts Hitting:

Coming off a breakout run in the big leagues after debuting in the majors post-deadline last year, (following 10 seasons in the minors), and a nice showing in the World Baseball Classic this past March, Joey Meneses got off to a slow start in his second season in the majors with Washington’s Nationals.

Over his first 14 games this season, Meneses, 30, went 13 for 58 (.224/.274/.293) with four doubles, four walks, and 12 Ks in 62 plate appearances, but his manager said last week he saw a few positive signs the slugger was close to where they want him to be.

“He’s getting caught in-between, and we’re working on getting him back,” Davey Martinez told reporters before the finale with Cleveland last week.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Minnesota Twins Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

“When he’s back the [ball] comes off his [bat] hard. So, he’s still getting caught in-between.

“The fact that he hit the ball the other way yesterday was a good sign. The fact that he stayed on a breaking ball and drove it in the hole was a good sign, now he’s got to be consistent with just getting back early.”

Meneses went 2 for 5 that night, but he was 1 for 10 in the next two games, as the Nationals got shut out twice by the Baltimore Orioles, leading up to his seventh inning at-bat against Minnesota Twins’ starter Tyler Mahle on Friday night.

Meneses got all of 2-0 fastball inside and hit it 409 ft. to center field in Target Field at 103.7 MPH off the bat for his first home run of 2023 (in his 18th game).

Considering he hit six home in his first 18 games last season, it’s a relatively slow start for Meneses, but Martinez said he is seeing positive signs after the 3-2 win in the Twin Cities.

“I think he’s starting to — stuff is starting to click for him,” Martinez told reporters after the game on Friday night.

“He’s hit some balls hard, he stayed on some pitches today. He had good at-bats.

“He had some good at-bats the other day too, so hopefully this is a sign that he’s getting the bat out in front and he’s going to start hitting the ball like that consistently.”

The fact he put as much of a charge into the home run he did, on a close-to-if-not-literally freezing night in Minneapolis, MN was another positive sign for his skipper.

“It was great,” Martinez continued. “Like I said, he got himself ready on time, he’s putting good bat on the ball, and we know that — I’ve said before — I saw him hit in the two months last year, and in Triple-A all year last year. We believe in him. And it was a good day for him.”

MLB: Washington Nationals at Minnesota Twins Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

In Saturday’s matchup with Minnesota, Martinez penciled Meneses in as his first baseman for the third time this season, hoping his slugger might benefit from being more involved than he is when DHing as he has most days.

“I just want to get Joey on the field,” Martinez explained. “With the quick turnaround, I wanted to give Dom [Smith] basically be his kind of a day off. But just switch them up.

“Joey’s been DHing every day. I just want to get him a little bit more involved every now and then and play first base. I thought today would be a good day.”

“I think this keeps him really involved in the game, in-between innings,” the sixth-year skipper added.

“He’s trying to develop a routine DHing. I mean it’s tough when you’re DHing every day to find that routine, when you’ve never done it before.

“This gets him a little more involved, keeps him in the game today, and we’ll see how he does.”

He did pretty well. Meneses singled to drive in a run in the first, added an RBI single in the second, then he singled again in the fourth, and after striking out in the fifth, he doubled, before he struck out to end the top of the ninth, finishing the day 4 for 6 with two RBIs in what ended up a 10-4 win, in which the Nationals collected 15 hits total and went 6 for 19 with runners in scoring position.

“He’s on time. He’s getting on time, and he’s getting ready to hit the fastball. When he gets going, man, it’s awesome to see. He hits the ball everywhere,” Martinez said after back-to-back wins over the Twins.

Smith went 2 for 4 with a walk and a K. Jeimer Candelario collected two hits (2 for 5). Luis García went 2 for 4. Victor Robles (2 for 4, 3 R) had a multi-hit game as well.

“You see what’s happening right now,” Martinez told reporters. “It’s contagious. We get those guys swinging the bat in the middle of the lineup, it’s going to be good. Dom has been struggling, but he’s battling up there.

“He’s got a couple of hits today again, and that’s going to help him, but it was a good day all around. These guys put the bat on the ball today, score some runs, we got to keep it going.”

The Nats’ hitters matched their run total from the previous four games in the win, and gave themselves a chance for a series sweep this afternoon in the finale with the Twins.

What’s been different the last two games?

“I think more so than anything, we’re getting ready,” the manager said. “We’re on time. And we’re just trying to stay in the middle of the field, not trying to do too much. When it’s cold like this, you want to barrel up some baseballs, so we’re just trying to stay in the middle of the field, and the key is to get ready early.”