Meneses' go-ahead jack makes Braves pay

Rookie belts game-winning blast vs. team that originally signed him in 2011

September 21st, 2022

ATLANTA -- After waiting 11 years to get a Major League opportunity, Joey Meneses returned to where his journey began, but in a different uniform.

Three days before his 19th birthday, the first baseman signed a Minor League deal with the Braves in May 2011. In September 2022, he made his first Major League appearance against the Braves and shined. The 30-year-old rookie was called up to the Nationals’ roster when Juan Soto and Josh Bell were traded to San Diego at the Trade Deadline on Aug. 2, and Meneses hasn't looked back.

In Washington's three-game series against the Braves, Meneses went 7-for-12 with a homer, a double, two walks and two RBIs. Both of his walks were intentional and in crucial situations. The first was in the top of the ninth inning on Tuesday, with the go-ahead run at second base and two outs. The second happened in the fifth inning of the Nationals' 3-2 win over Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon, with runners on second and third and the go-ahead run again at second.

Meneses quickly proved that Braves manager Brian Snitker made the correct decision in being cautious. The right-handed hitter blasted a 420-foot two-run homer with an exit velocity of 106.7 mph in his next at-bat, putting the Nationals ahead for good in the seventh and silencing Truist Park.

"It's awesome," manager Dave Martinez said. "In a big moment like that, all of a sudden, they go pitch to you, and he comes through. ... I love watching him play, I love watching him hit, and it was a big home run today."

Before he was promoted, Meneses was having the same level of success in the Minors. He was hitting .286 on the season with 107 hits, 20 homers and 64 RBIs. Since joining the Majors, he's hitting .328 with 57 hits, 10 homers and 25 RBIs in less than half of the at-bats. Meneses’ 55 hits entering Wednesday’s game were the most by any rookie through his first 42 games in franchise history (Expos/Nationals).

"[I'm] very satisfied," Meneses said about his performance since being called up, through interpreter Octavio Martinez. "I've been working my whole life to get to this point and have success at the big league level, and it's very satisfying to finally get here and be able to do what I've been doing."

In Wednesday's game, Meneses had three balls hit over 105 mph. On Tuesday, he had three balls hit over 100 mph, with his lowest exit velocity being 99.3 mph. In Monday's appearance, he had three balls hit over 100 mph, with his lowest exit velocity being 97.8 mph.

"I can't say enough about what Joey [Meneses] has been doing for us since he's been here," Martinez said. "He's been hitting balls [hard], doubles, homers, getting on base, playing good defense."

Although Meneses is a rookie, his experience in the Minors and his age have helped him take on a leadership role with the Nationals as they continue to rebuild.

"All around, he’s been such a blessing for our club," Martinez said about Meneses. "They call him a rookie, but he’s a veteran at heart. He’s acting that way with some of our young guys.”

It is uncommon to see a player spend such an extensive amount of time in the Minors before giving up on their Major League dreams. Meneses stuck with his path, and the Nationals are grateful.

"He’s in every at-bat, every pitch," Martinez said. "I’m happy for him. Some guys don’t stick around for that long and make it. He’s one that did, and he’s doing everything he can to stay.”

Although it hasn't been the season Washington hoped for, Meneses is soaking up every moment and enjoying living out his ambitions with players he's played alongside for years.

"I think we have great chemistry here," Meneses said. "We all get along great. Several of my teammates I played with in Triple-A, and we really liked being with each other. Obviously, the results throughout the season weren't what the team expected. But in general, the chemistry with the team itself right now is very good."