Meneses comes up clutch as Nats rally after rain delays

July 26th, 2023

WASHINGTON -- Every team, says, has a “rain man.” The Nationals right-hander is also their self-described “rain man” -- the pitcher whose starts often seem to be threatened by, delayed by and littered with rain drops. Tuesday night at Nationals Park was no different, with Williams logging six innings in between two delays that totaled two hours and 16 minutes and resulted in a long night in the nation’s capital.

But in the end, made it all worth it. The Nationals were filtering out of their clubhouse well past midnight on what turned into Wednesday morning because of Meneses, whose go-ahead three-run homer capped a four-run eighth-inning rally and sent the team to a dramatic 6-5 victory over the Rockies.

“The boys hung in there,” Nats manager Dave Martinez said.

Washington trailed for much of the game that ended four hours and 47 minutes after its scheduled start time before Meneses’ homer off Justin Lawrence flipped the soggy script. Here are three key moments from one of the Nationals’ wildest wins of the season.

1. Joey goes golfing
The power Meneses displayed in his feel-good rookie campaign hasn’t always been there in his sophomore season, with nearly half the homers in nearly twice the games this year compared to 2022 (7 HR in 94 games, compared to 13 in 56). But he tapped into it late Tuesday night, going below the zone to golf Lawrence’s 1-1 sweeper into the left-field seats in the pivotal eighth.

“He’s not invincible,” Rockies manager Bud Black said of Lawrence. “He’s pitched really, really well. They went down and got some balls. He just missed the wrong side of the plate a couple times today, and they took advantage. They dropped the head on some balls down in the strike zone.”

Meneses’ seventh homer of the year was also one of his most dramatic; the Nationals trailed 4-1 through the top of the seventh and 5-2 entering the bottom of the eighth. CJ Abrams led off the inning with a single, stole his 20th base of the season (and 17th consecutive) and reached third when Ryan McMahon misplayed Lane Thomas’ grounder. Jeimer Candelario followed with a run-scoring double, setting the stage for Meneses’ blast. The slugger’s heroics made a winner out of reliever Jose A. Ferrer -- who logged 1 2/3 innings of relief after the second rain delay -- for the first time.

“It wasn’t so much frustrating as it was a little tedious, a little boring,” Meneses said of the delays. “But it definitely was very satisfactory to pull off the win, especially since if we would’ve stopped the game due to rain, we would’ve lost the game.”

2. Riley keeps raking
The sleeper Nats trade candidate nobody is talking about? How about , who has been such a revelation at the plate that Martinez is having to find more ways to squeeze his bat into the lineup.

Adams might be the most productive backup catcher in baseball, hitting .299 with a .552 slugging percentage in only 95 plate appearances after another two-hit night Tuesday. Adams’ run-scoring double off Austin Gomber got the Nationals on the board in the second; he’s also homered four times this season and collected multiple hits in four of his past five games.

“I want to keep Riley going; he’s swinging the bat well,” Martinez said. “He’s swinging the bat really good, even against right-handed pitching.”

3. Finnegan shuts the door
Williams didn’t have his best stuff, results or luck on Tuesday; rain delayed the start of play by 85 minutes, and then he allowed four runs while watching his fastball velocity dip into the mid-80s at one point. But Williams retired his final 10 hitters, allowing him to get through six innings. That, Martinez said, was the key to the game.

That’s because it gave Martinez a bridge to for the ninth once Washington stormed back after play was halted for 51 minutes in the seventh. The 31-year-old closer might be auditioning for potential trade suitors this week as the Deadline approaches; on Tuesday, he worked around a two-out hit in the ninth to collect his 14th save.

Finnegan is now 3-for-3 in save chances with four strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings since right-hander Hunter Harvey went on the injured list in mid-July.

“As starters, we’re taking it upon ourselves -- especially with Harvey down in the bullpen -- to make the transition easier for the ‘pen,” Williams said. “They’ve been picking us up all year. It’s just something we’re taking ownership of. We want to pitch deeper into games and give the bullpen a blow when they’ve been picking us up all year.”