September 6, 2022
The pitching matchup in the Saturday game between the Nationals and the Mets could not have seemed more lopsided: Patrick Corbin, then with a 5-17 win-loss record, faced the eminent future Hall-of-Famer Max Scherzer, then with a 9-4 record and eagerly looking for his 200th career win. But Corbin was coming off a stirring win against the Reds the previous Sunday (which I saw), whereas Scherzer had lost his last two games, against the Yankees and the Rockies. In the top of the first inning, Luis Garcia surprised everyone by hitting a solo home run off Scherzer, who is known for giving up homers as well as getting strikeouts. In the third inning, the Mets tied the game with a solo home run by Eduardo Escobar, and the game remained tied 1-1 until [after Max Scherzer was relieved in ths sixth inning. No decision for Max. (He apparently pulled a muscle or something.)] Then in the eighth inning, Lane Turner put the Nationals ahead with yet another solo home run, his 15th four-bagger of the year. Then in the ninth inning, the Nats piled on five more runs in a succession of clutch hits and one weird play in which CJ Abrams (not "C.J." apparently) was caught stealing but then second baseman Jeff McNeil committed a throwing error. Final score: Nats 7, Mets 1. [It was another triumph and moment of redemption for Patrick Corbin, who has been harshly maligned for much of this season.]
On Sunday, the Nats took a 5-1 lead on a four-run rally in the top of the third inning, and added two more runs in the fifth inning as Cesar Hernandez hit his very first home run of the year. (In 2021 he hit 21 homers, and when the Nats signed him, they presumably expected a similar performance this year.) He got the "silent treatment" by his team mates in the dugouts, and then relished congratulations. Hernandez has more hits (124) than any other Nationals player this year, which is surprising given that he seldom gets much recognition. He's just very modest and low-key, but he puts in a full day's "work" almost every day, and does fairly well, with a .248 average. He has 501 at-bats this year, much more than the next Nats player in that category, Nelson Cruz, who has 429. Anyway, Erick Fedde got his first win since June 21, giving up only one run over six full innings. Just like the day before, the final score was Nats 7, Mets 1.
[And thus, the Nationals confounded almost everyone's expectations by beating the Mets in two out of three games, their second consecutive series victory. Having won five out of their last six games (excluding tonight), the Nats now have a reasonable chance to emerge from the "dungeon" of Major League Baseball, where they have languished since July; the Oakland A's and Cincinnati Reds are in their sights. Now with a 48-88 record, they might even reach the 60-game win threshold, possibly replacing the Miami Marlins in fourth place of the NL East. At least the last four weeks of the 2022 season should offer some excitement and encouragement for us long-suffering Nats fans.]
Numbers don't lie, right? Well, if that's true, then Joey Meneses has been a better player than Juan Soto since the latter was traded to the San Diego Padres on August 2. After putting up truly spectacular numbers in his first month in major league baseball, he began the month of September in the most jaw-dropping fashion that you can imagine: hitting three singles in his first five at-bats and then smashing a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the tenth inning to beat the Oakland A's 7-5. The Nats thereby took two of three games in that series, their first such victory since doing likewise against the Dodgers in Los Angeles in late July. So of course, since that was the Nationals' very first walk-off home run this year, I had to update the Washington Nationals BIG moments page. Notably absent from either the walk-off home run list or the grand slam list on that page: former National star (and likely future Hall-of-Famer) Juan Soto!
Since that big triumph, for which he was given a ceremonial Gatorade shower, Meneses has gotten seven more hits over 23 at-bats, keeping his batting average well above the .300 level. He led the way in the Nats' upset 6-0 shutout of the Cardinals in St. Louis on Labor Day afternoon, going 3 for 5 at the plate. In that game, another unlikely starting pitcher (Anibal Sanchez) got the win, his second of the year. In tonight's game the Nats took an early 1-0 lead, but starting pitcher Paolo Espino gave up three runs in the fourth inning and took the loss; he now has an 0-7 record for the year. And thus, the Nats' bid for their first four-game winning streak of the season was thwarted as the Cardinals won it, 4-1. Nevertheless, Joey Meneses once again did his part for the Nationals, hitting two doubles, even though he did not score or bat in a run either time.
|Statistic||Joey Meneses||Juan Soto
(as a Padre)
|Runs Batted In||16||6|
|On-base Plus Slugging||.957||.802|
Includes the Sept. 6 game for Meneses but not for Soto.
Chances are somewhere between 90 and 95 percent that Soto will bounce back and do better than Meneses next year, but at least Nats fans have good reason to hope that their team will become competitive once again sooner rather than later.
In Pittsburgh earlier this evening, the Pirates beat the New York Mets, 8-2, and in Oakland the Braves took an early 3-0 lead over the Athletics, but have struggled to stay ahead since then. If they manage to win, the Braves will have tied the Mets atop the National League East Division.
Yankee outfielder Aaron Judge has hit two more home runs this week, and now has 54 for the year. That ties Mickey Mantle's career high, which he reached in 1961, the same year that Roger Maris set the modern-era record with 61 home runs. With four weeks left to play, he is on course to reach 64 or so home runs for the regular season as a whole.