Family, 'Dad Strength' propel Meneses to two homers in Game 2

August 9th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- In a crowd of 40,264 fans at Citizens Bank Park, thought of two as he neared home plate and blew a kiss toward the stands on a pair of late-game home runs that lifted the Nationals to victory over the Phillies in the nightcap of the doubleheader.

Meneses’ wife and infant son born in May, Joseph, were in the stands -- and on his mind.

“He’s very young right now, but it’s something that motivated me more because I know my son is in the stands,” Meneses said following the Nats’ 5-4 Game 2 win on Tuesday night. “Maybe later he’s going to watch those homers or something, and he’s going to know he’d been in the stands.”

In a straight doubleheader during which 10 home runs left the ballpark, Meneses connected on the final two long balls when it counted the most for the Nationals. They went .500 on the day following an 8-4 loss in Game 1.

Meneses began Game 2 with a strikeout, a groundout and a lineout against starter Ranger Suárez. Facing reliever Jeff Hoffman in the seventh inning was a welcome change. Trailing 4-2 with Lane Thomas on base, Meneses jumped on the first pitch of the at-bat -- a 98 mph fastball down the middle -- and sent it a Statcast-estimated 406 feet into left-center field at 107.5 mph.

“With Suárez, I felt like I was just out of rhythm,” Meneses said. “I didn’t feel comfortable. I was out in front, I was behind, I felt he was throwing the fastball by me, he kept me off balance. But when the relief pitchers came in, the first time I was sitting fastball and he was going to throw me heaters, which they did.”

Meneses was not done yet. He faced Craig Kimbrel with one out and the bases empty in a tied ninth inning. Following a called strike (fastball), a swinging strike (knuckle curve) and a ball (fastball), Meneses connected on an 85.7 mph knuckle curve. The go-ahead homer traveled 394 feet to left-center with an exit velocity of 101 mph.

“The second one, for some reason I just had a feeling [Kimbrel] was going to throw me a curveball again,” Meneses said. “And he did, and I was able to hit it.”

Said Kimbrel, who had not allowed a home run since July 23, "I made one bad pitch. That's all I can say."

Meneses’ heroics marked his second career multihomer contest, and it came on his 162nd career game played. He first accomplished the feat on July 7 against the Rangers.

Meneses, who debuted last Aug. 2, has been picking up momentum at the same time of the season as last year. He has hit four of his 11 home runs since July 31, and he finished the day 3-for-9 in the twin bill.

“When he stays behind and keeps his head behind his swing and gets his foot down on time, he’s been doing some damage,” said manager Dave Martinez. “It’s good to see him start to get the ball up in the air more consistently.”

While the Nationals saw their four-game winning streak snapped by the Phillies in Game 1, Meneses and a solid performance by the bullpen helped avoid a skid.

“Joey had a great night, he really did,” said Martinez. “As I always say, this team just keeps battling. We play hard for 27 outs. Anything can happen in this ballpark; you’ve just got to try to keep the ball in the air. It was a good night for Joey, a good night for us.”