LOS ANGELES -- As if this Padres-Dodgers rivalry weren't fun enough already ...
For the second night in a row, Tatis launched a pair of home runs off a former National League Cy Young Award winner. And after he’d gone hitless against Bauer last weekend at Petco Park, Tatis made sure to enjoy his two home runs -- by mimicking two of Bauer’s signature celebrations.
“He got me at home,” Tatis said. “So it was probably payback time.”
On the second pitch of the Padres' 5-4 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday night, Tatis demolished a fastball from the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner into the left-field pavilion, his ninth career leadoff blast.
As Tatis rounded first base, he turned toward the Padres' dugout -- and covered his eye with his right hand.
During Spring Training, Bauer made a habit of throwing pitches with one eye closed. He first did it in a Cactus League game against the Padres. After recording an inning-ending strikeout while doing so, Bauer left the field, covering his eye.
Evidently, Tatis remembered.
Then, with the game tied at 2 in the sixth, Tatis launched another home run off Bauer, punctuating it with an emphatic bat flip and chest thump. As he crossed home plate, Tatis strutted -- a la MMA’s Conor McGregor -- another celebration Bauer has adopted.
"It's just fun when you know you're facing a guy like that,” Tatis said. “He's doing his stuff. He's having fun on the mound. And when you get him, you get him, and you celebrate, too."
Bauer, to his credit, took no issue. Quite the opposite, in fact. Bauer was all for it.
“If you give up a homer, a guy should celebrate it,” he said. “It’s hard to hit in the big leagues. So I’m all for it, and I think that it’s important that the game moves in that direction and that we stop throwing at people because they celebrated having some success on the field.”
Tatis entered the series with just two home runs on the season. He has now hit two in each of the past two nights. He took Clayton Kershaw deep twice on Friday night – in a fitting tribute to his dad's two-grand-slam inning at Dodger Stadium, which had occurred 22 years ago to the day.
But Tatis wasn't done providing the theatrics this weekend. His first home run on Saturday night left his bat at 103.7 mph, travelling a projected 387 feet, according to Statcast. His second came after a seven-pitch battle with Bauer, who threw a 3-2 slider a few inches off the outside corner. Tatis still crushed it 414 feet to left-center at 105.2 mph off the bat.
That sixth-inning blast gave the Padres a 3-2 lead. But left-hander Blake Snell received the hook after just 87 pitches in the bottom half of the frame, and the Padres’ bullpen would surrender the lead. Pierce Johnson allowed all four hitters he faced to reach base. Then, the Dodgers took the lead on Corey Seager’s two-run single against Tim Hill -- negating Tatis’ historic night.
Tatis became the first visiting player with consecutive multihomer games at Dodger Stadium since Barry Bonds did so in 2002. According to STATS, he’s the first player in history to hit multiple home runs against former Cy Young winners in consecutive games.
Tatis wasn’t in the lineup on March 5, the day Bauer pitched parts of an inning with his eye closed against the Padres. Bauer was asked about it after that start:
“I figured if they can’t score off me with one eye open, it’s going to be difficult to score off me with two eyes open,” Bauer joked. “Just having a little bit of fun.”
Difficult, maybe. Unless you’re Fernando Tatis Jr.
After a slow start to the season, safe to say Tatis is back. He’d missed 10 days while on the injured list with a partially dislocated left shoulder and entered this weekend’s series hitting just .154 with two home runs.
But Tatis altered his swing to a more compact version with a two-handed follow-through, which has worked wonders. Even when he finishes one-handed -- as he did on his sixth-inning shot -- it’s much more controlled. And lately there have been other signs of a breakout, too.
“The body language, the energy coming off of him, the smile -- he's back to being himself,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler.
Indeed, Tatis’ swagger is officially back. He’s hitting tone-setting home runs, and he’s enjoying the heck out of them -- as Tatis does.