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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats walk eight in 10-5 loss to D-backs; Talking Joey Meneses & elevation + more...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ 10-5 loss to the D-backs in D.C.

Jake Irvin’s Brief Outing:

The third inning of Jake Irvin’s outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers last week in Dodger Stadium was a tough one, with the 26-year-old rookie giving up back-to-back singles, then surrendering a ground-rule double, sac fly, and an RBI single which put Washington down 4-1 in what ended up a 9-3 loss for the Nationals.

His manager liked the fact that Irvin kept going and followed up with two scoreless innings of work in the five-inning, 94-pitch outing.

“Just the ball got up a little bit,” Davey Martinez said.

“But for the most part it was encouraging to watch him get through it, and come back out the next inning, and the next two innings, and pitch really well. For me that was a learning moment, so hopefully he takes that into his next start.”

“I still felt like I competed,” Irvin told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, after the loss. “Made pitches. Tried to keep us in the game as long as possible.”

Before the outing, Martinez talked about what Irvin needs to do to be successful in his turns in the starting rotation.

“He’s got to pound the strike zone, he’s got to get ahead,” the skipper said.

“When he’s ahead he’s really good. He’s got a mix of three really good pitches, but he’s got to work ahead, he can’t fall behind.”

“He’s got to be around that strike zone and he’s got to throw strike one.”

Irvin threw first pitch strikes to 5 of 6 batters he faced in the top of the first, but he gave up a one-out single (by Ketel Marte), issued a two-out walk (to Christian Walker), losing the six-pitch battle after getting up 1-2 and missing with three straight, then surrendered an RBI hit by Emmanuel Rivera, who put the visiting D-backs up, 1-0.

After a 21-pitch first inning, Irvin worked around back-to-back, one-out walks in a 20-pitch second, then retired the side in order in the D-backs’ third, but he gave up two runs in the fourth, with back-to-back hits and a run to start the top of the inning, and a two-out RBI hit to make it a one-run game, 4-3, after a Stone Garrett grand slam in the Nationals’ first put the home team up by three early.

Irvin took the mound at 74 pitches in the fifth, and a nine-pitch battle which ended with a HBP on Corbin Carroll’s wrist, ended the starter’s outing after 83 total...

Jake Irvin’s Line: 4.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 83 P, 59 S, 5/2 GO/FO.

Martinez was asked if he sent Irvin back out for the fifth, with the idea he would remove him if he didn’t get the first out.

“The one batter actually had 6-7 pitches, if he gets through that — he had 83 pitches when we took him out, and we wanted to keep him right around that right now. So we had to pull him out,” Martinez said.


Erasmo Ramírez hit the first batter he faced, putting two on, then balked them both over on an odd play which saw him step off and start to throw to first before he realized Dom Smith wasn’t at the bag. With two runners in scoring position and no one out, Ramírez fell behind the next batter, 3-0, and walked him to load the bases, so a sac fly tied it up at 4-4, adding one run to Jake Irvin’s line.

A one-out RBI single put the D-backs on top, 5-4, and a sac fly to right-center made it a two-run lead for the visitors after four and a half, 6-4.

Chad Kuhl took over with two out in the fifth and got the final out of the inning, but an E:6 and two walks loaded the bases with one out, and an RBI single drove in two runs, 8-5 AZ.

José Ruiz, who finished up the fifth for Arizona, returned to the mound in the sixth and set the side down in order.

Kuhl gave up two runs on a home run by Pavin Smith in the top of the seventh, 10-5.

“Walks,” Davey Martinez said, in summing up what went wrong in the series opening loss, in which his club’s pitchers walked eight total.

“We’re walking too many guys. Hitting batters. Falling behind. Pitching 2-0, 1-0, 3-1. You’re not going to win very many games like that. So we’ve got to clean that up. We’ve got to play defense again. We’ve got to play defense. We were doing that so well. So we’ve got to catch the ball, and we’ve got to limit our walks. We come out swinging the bats, big home run by [Stone] Garrett, and then like I’ve said, we score runs like that early, we got a chance to knock the starter out, we got to have better at-bats after that, but the walks, the walks, the walks are going to kill us every time, so we’ve got to start pounding the strike zone again.”


• A leadoff single by Lane Thomas, naturally, one-out walk by Joey Meneses, and then a walk by Jeimer Candelario, loaded the bases for Stone Garrett with southpaw Tommy Henry on the mound in the series opener for the D-backs in Nationals Park, and the Nats’ slugger had to go down for a 1-2 change low in the zone and lift it, but he got it and sent his 2nd home run of 2023, and his first career base-clearer, 389 feet to left for a grand slam and a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

• With the score 6-4 in the D-backs’ favor after four and a half, Lane Thomas stepped in and hit a leadoff home run 428 feet to left-center on a 90 MPH 1-1 fastball from Henry, who had bounced back nicely from his rough first, 6-5. No. 9 for Thomas in 2023.

BACK PAGE - Joey Meneses & Elevation:

MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, reacting to Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty’s tweet about Joey Meneses (before last night’s game) having the same amount of games played early this season as he got in late last year in his breakout run, when he came up to play 56 following the blockbuster trade deadline deal which saw the Nationals’ send a 23-year-old Juan Soto (and Josh Bell) to the San Diego Padres, noted how Meneses had also put up just about the same numbers:

Standard Batting
2022 30 WSN NL 56 240 222 33 72 14 0 13 34 1 0 15 52 .324 .367 .563 .930 165 125 13 1 0 2 2 39/7H
2023 31 WSN NL 56 248 233 25 71 14 1 2 30 0 0 15 47 .305 .347 .399 .746 110 93 6 0 0 0 0 *D/39
2 Yrs 112 488 455 58 143 28 1 15 64 1 0 30 99 .314 .357 .479 .836 137 218 19 1 0 2 2
162 Game Avg. 162 706 658 84 207 40 1 22 93 1 0 43 143 .314 .357 .479 .836 137 315 27 1 0 3 3
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2023 via

The Nationals highlighted in their pregame notes for the first of three with the D-backs in D.C. how Meneses, “[had] reached base safely in a career-high 13 straight games,” before last night, “hitting .365 (19-for-52) with a .441 on-base percentage (7 BB, 7 SO) during this streak,” and how he’d “... reached safely in 23 of his last 24 games, [with a] .361/.421/.495 [line], eight doubles, one triple, one homer, 20 RBI[s], 10 walks, and 14 runs scored during [that] streak.”

But as MASN’s Zuckerman noted, the home runs aren’t where they were through 56 games last season, with just two leaving the yard in 248 plate appearances vs. 13 in 240 PAs in ‘23.

His manager, Davey Martinez, talked this past weekend about Meneses continuing to adjust to his role as a DH, and now that he’s hitting again after a relatively slow start (.247/.281/.353 through the first 20 games in April), trying to get the ball in the air more often.

“It’s been hard for him because it is a new role,” Martinez explained of Meneses serving as a DH most days this season after playing the outfield and first base last year.

“We’ve discussed that a lot with him, just about [how] he’s got to kind of get a routine, and he’s actually gotten better with it, you know, and I know it’s still tough for him, but he’s got a lot better with it, you know. But he can hit. That’s one thing that I know for sure, is that he gets up there, and we got guys on base, he’s kind of the guy we’re looking to get up there to drive in runs. He’s been really good. I know he’s working on some things, he’s kind of aggravated because he’s not getting the ball in the air as much as he wants to, but we’re working on some stuff with him to do that, but — he puts the bat on the ball, and he’s been great. Now that it’s starting to get warmer, it’s going to be hot, there will be some days where I’ll stick him out in the field to give those other guys a break.”

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

As Martinez noted before last night’s game, Meneses is still hitting the ball hard this year, (47.3% HardHit%, league avg. 36.0; 90.0 MPH average exit velo — league avg. 88), but his launch angle is down (8.8 average, down from 9.5 in 2022), his fly-ball percentage is too, (13.4% FB%, from 23.8% in ‘22), and the ball just isn’t leaving the yard like it did last year.

“Obviously he’s hitting the ball really well, right?” Martinez asked rhetorically. “We talk a lot about just him getting the ball up in the air, but it’s funny, I looked at what he did last year and what [he’s doing this year]. He’s not hitting the ball any less [hard] than he did last year, he’s just not getting the ball up in the air as much, and that’s something they’re working on, but he’s hitting the ball really hard. I think at this point he feels like he knows he can hit here, and he is who he is, we’re going to try to get him to once again start trying to get the ball elevated in the air.”

“And that’s something that he’s working really hard on with [Hitting coaches Pat Roessler and Darnell Coles], but he’s been great. He’s been awesome.

“And like I said, he is learning how to DH, and getting a routine. That’s something that is taking him a while, but he’s starting to grasp it a little bit.”

The biggest benefit of Meneses getting comfortable as the DH? Not really, the biggest, but it’s funny...

“He doesn’t come to my office and complain as much any more,” Martinez said, “... which is nice, because I know he just loves playing the game, but what we need him to do right now is hit and drive in runs and he’s done that for us.”

And when he is hitting the ball, but not elevating, is there a concern about tweaking things a bit and potentially throwing things off with his swing?

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

“So what we try to do is make things simple for him,” Martinez said, “as opposed to — so, a lot of times I’ve noticed where he takes a lot of first-pitch fastballs, with runners in scoring position we want him to be a little more aggressive on those balls, and he can do that, you know, so it’s kind of like simplifying, not trying to make too big of a deal, but trying to get him to understand, ‘Hey, they’re pumping you fastballs first pitch right down the middle, be ready for them. Those are balls that you might be able to elevate, because he does have a really good eye up there, and so just little subtle things that maybe we can do without him changing what he’s doing right now, because he is hitting the ball hard. We showed him a little bit about where his contact point was last year, when he was really going really well, as opposed to this year, and it’s just a minor difference as to where he’s hitting the ball, and that can help him out a little bit as well.

“So, we want him to work on these things in batting practice, but when the game comes, I tell him, ‘Don’t think about them, just go up there and hit.’

“The biggest thing is to forget about what we’re working on during batting practice, and when the game starts, everything just quickens up, so just focus on hitting the baseball hard.”