Fedde, Meneses stepping up for young Nationals

August 24th, 2022

SEATTLE -- The Nationals are in the midst of a late-August stretch in which their eyes are fixed on young players and the future. Erick Fedde and Joey Meneses are definitely not young, but there’s no reason to believe they can’t stick around and be part of what Washington is building.

Fedde came off the injured list on Tuesday night vs. the Mariners and continued his sneaky-good season while Meneses continued his eye-popping power surge, but once again the bats otherwise fell mostly silent in a 4-2 loss in the opener of a two-game series at T-Mobile Park.

“We’ve just got to get offense going,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “We’ve got to start putting the balls in play a little bit more, stay in the middle of the field, and our big guys have got to start driving some runs.”

Fedde, 29, was largely brilliant. He struck out six batters in five innings while only giving up three hits and a walk. He got 12 swings and misses. One of the hits he surrendered was a rare bunt against the shift by Carlos Santana in the second inning. One was an 88.9 mph bouncer off the bat of Jesse Winker in the fourth.

The other one was the one that did him in. It was one of Fedde’s only mistakes of the night, and it came right after Winker’s hit when Mitch Haniger stepped up to the plate in a scoreless ballgame.

Fedde unleashed a 94 mph two-seam fastball on a 2-0 count that caught a bit too much of the inner half of the plate, and Haniger blasted it 392 feet over the wall in left field. The Mariners had a 2-0 lead, but Fedde once again showed how valuable he can be for the Nationals’ rotation.

Fedde returned Tuesday from almost a month on the injured list because of right shoulder inflammation and got right back to business, although his absence dictated that he be removed from the game after throwing only 81 pitches. He has now allowed three earned runs or fewer in 16 of his 20 starts this season, and he has allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his last seven starts. He has received five total runs of support over this stretch.

“I felt really strong,” Fedde said. “I felt like I was getting better as the game went on, honestly, but I guess we spent pretty much a month off trying to make sure I feel good. I don't want to have a setback.”

In the midst of a last-place season for the Nationals, Fedde’s hard-luck loss extended an unfortunate Major League record: It was Washington’s 40th consecutive game without a win from the starting pitcher. The last time they got such a victory was when Josiah Gray beat the Phillies in Philadelphia on July 6.

One of the main reasons for the lack of run support on Tuesday night was Mariners starter Robbie Ray. The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner didn’t give up a hit through six innings, although the Nationals made him work a bit, working a pair of walks and making him throw 88 pitches in that span.

In the top of the seventh, 30-year-old rookie Meneses led off the inning and ended the no-hit bid by doing what he’s been doing quite a bit lately. The right fielder, playing in his 18th game since making his Major League debut on Aug. 2 after 10 years in the Minor Leagues, crushed a 2-1 fastball from Ray over the outstretched glove of center fielder Julio Rodríguez and the wall to put Washington on the board.

Meneses now has at least one hit in 16 of his first 18 career MLB games, and he already was the first player in franchise history to have five homers in his first nine games.

“Right now, he’s a big part of our future, right?” Martinez said. “I mean, he's done well. And we're looking for big bats like that. I love watching him play. I love watching that. So I want to keep it going.”

The brief bit of drama that Meneses provided subsided when the Mariners scored two more runs in the bottom of the seventh when Santana led off the frame with a single off Washington reliever Steve Cishek and Eugenio Suárez followed with a two-run homer to left-center.

But Meneses was not done mashing. In the ninth, he led off the inning against Mariners closer Paul Sewald and came within a few feet of another home run, hitting a drive to left center that caromed off the top part of the wall by the 376-foot sign for a double. He scored two batters later on Lane Thomas’ RBI single.

“It’s just focus,” Meneses said through an interpreter. “Make sure you go to that at-bat looking for a particular pitch. And not getting first-pitch outs with the pitcher’s pitch.

“I’m just looking for a good pitch that I can handle and make hard contact.”