Kim delivers go-ahead homer with Tatis out

June 20th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres, of course, would prefer never to find out what their offense might look like without But the way they’re swinging it right now, it might still be pretty darn good.

After Tatis’ early exit on Saturday, it was , Tatis’ replacement at shortstop, who provided the heroics, launching a go-ahead two-run home run that stayed just fair inside the left-field foul pole. It sent Petco Park into a frenzy and the Padres to a wild 7-5 victory -- their third straight win and their fourth straight game in which they’ve scored at least six runs.

“Pure joy,” said Kim, who has been limited to sporadic appearances lately with a fully healthy Padres infield. “I was just enjoying the moment. I was so happy. That's about it, just happiness.”

Petco Park responded in kind, asking for a curtain call, and Kim happily obliged, emerging to the top step of the home dugout and dancing.

“Just such a special moment,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “He's up there battling. Then all of a sudden, you hear the stadium, the fans, the place just chanting his name. When he hit that ball, the place just erupted. You pan into the dugout and you just see the true happiness of his teammates, and you just know how much this guy's loved.”

Now, the Padres await further word on Tatis, who exited the game with an injury to his left shoulder after diving awkwardly in an attempt to make a play on Tyler Naquin’s single in the top of the fifth inning. Early indications, per Tingler, are that Tatis’ current injury isn’t nearly as serious as the partial dislocation that forced him onto the 10-day injured list in April.

“We’ll certainly be day to day, and we’ll kind of see where we’re at,” Tingler said. “A lot of times, you find out a little bit more after you go to bed, wake up the next day and see where we’re at. But we feel like we’re in a fairly decent position. The trainers think it’s nowhere near where it’s been earlier on in the year.”

Added Kim: “Tatis, obviously, he's our engine of our team. He's the best player on our team, and obviously I want him to be back in the lineup as soon as possible.”

Kim proved more than serviceable as Tatis’ replacement on Saturday, despite the fact that he has played sparingly over the past few weeks. The game was tied at 5-5 after the eventful fifth inning, and it remained that way until Kim came to the plate in the eighth following ’s two-out double -- his third double of the game.

Kim fouled off a couple offerings from Reds reliever Heath Hembree, as a steady chant of, “Let’s go Kim,” began to build at Petco Park (which reopened to full capacity for the first time this weekend).

Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson set up low and away for Hembree’s 1-2 slider. The pitch hung up and in. Kim made no mistake, launching a 104 mph rocket toward the Western Metal Supply Co. Building.

“Honestly, before I threw that pitch to Kim, I was excited about it,” Hembree said. “I thought I was going to shut up the whole stadium and sit everybody back down. But it didn’t go my way. I gave him a pitch to hit, and he had a cool moment.”

Kim returned to the dugout and was greeted by a beaming , holding the Padres’ “swag chain.” Kim happily accepted, as Petco Park went berserk around him. Clearly, Kim and Machado have begun to develop a special kind of rapport in their four months together.

“He's a veteran of our team,” Kim said. “He's like my big brother in the clubhouse. He's always trying to help me, trying to give me advice and trying to make me laugh. I'm always happy around him.”

It was Machado who had given the Padres’ a three-run lead in the bottom of the fourth inning with a bases-clearing double. had homered earlier. The Padres surrendered that lead, as they asked five relievers, including in a spot start, to cover nine innings on Saturday so they could realign their rotation.

No matter, the San Diego lineup has been relentless since returning home from a 1-5 trip, and that trend continued on Saturday, even after it lost its most impactful player.

“You just watch everybody’s reaction, and you’d get a good read just how everybody feels about Kim,” Tingler said. “It was huge, because is there a little bit of a gut punch when you lose Tati? Yeah, absolutely. People feel that. For us to just continue to play, continue to go, understand, ‘Stay in this game, stay in the moment.’ We’re going to fight. We’re going to find a way to get it done.

“How appropriate was it that it was Kim there, taking over for Tatis and picking us up? I think it’s huge for the team.”