“I definitely knew this was the day,” Tatis would later say. “I told myself: Imagine if you hit two home runs today. That would be so crazy.”
Well, guess what happened Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
Tatis celebrated the anniversary in style -- with two home runs of his own in the Padres’ 6-1 victory over the Dodgers.
Call it a family tradition.
“I feel like the baseball gods were in my favor today,” Tatis said. “Glad it happened. It’s definitely something me and my family are going to celebrate and something that’s going to be in my heart for the rest of my life.”
Tatis took it upon himself to author the latest remarkable chapter in this epic season series. All five games between the Padres and Dodgers have featured unique drama. There was the 12-inning slugfest on April 16, a walk-off diving catch by Mookie Betts on Saturday, a late Padres rally on Sunday and a decisive double play on Thursday.
“The biggest rivalry in baseball,” Tatis said. “Everybody can feel it; everybody can see it. Just the games that we’re playing -- it’s a blessing to be a part of it."
Despite all the drama, a slumping Tatis hadn’t truly imposed himself upon the proceedings. Until Friday night, that is.
In the third inning, Tatis cranked a mammoth home run into the left-field pavilion, putting the Padres on top, 2-1. Clayton Kershaw threw a knee-high fastball that caught too much plate, and Tatis made no mistake, sending it a projected 431 feet, according to Statcast.
Two innings later, Tatis demolished another Kershaw offering, keeping it just fair inside the left-field foul pole -- 419 feet.
Both were solo shots, to be clear. His father's record of two grand slams in the same inning against Chan Ho Park remains one of the sport’s most unique and unmatchable feats.
The two Tatises are the only father-son duo in baseball history to hit multiple home runs on the same calendar date at the same venue. They’re the only two players in Dodger Stadium history to hit multiple home runs in a game played there on April 23.
“It's crazy to think about on I guess you'd call it the anniversary,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “I don't even know how to explain it. Just more reassurance that there's a higher being. I don't know how to explain it. It's just unbelievable.”
Tatis certainly needed a night like this one, considering his slow start to the 2021 season. He entered Friday with just seven hits in 43 at-bats. He also spent 10 days on the injured list after sustaining a partially dislocated left shoulder.
“You know how this game is,” Tatis said, channeling his inner San Diegan. “It’s a wave. You’ve just got to be able to ride it.”
That shoulder seems fine right now. Tatis’ first big fly left his bat at 113.4 mph, the hardest home run he had ever hit -- until he topped it two innings later with a 115.9 mph blast, matching the hardest hit ball of any kind in his career.
Tatis punctuated both ferocious swings with the two-handed follow-through he has been emphasizing since he injured his shoulder on a swing with a one-handed follow-through earlier this month.
Doesn’t seem to have changed much. New swing, same Fernando Tatis Jr.
Tingler had predicted the breakout before this series.
“When you start to see that big smile and you see the body language and the swagger and the energy coming back over the last couple days -- that's why myself and the group felt really good with the direction he was going,” Tingler said.
After the game, Tatis moseyed outside the first-base dugout at Dodger Stadium for a TV interview. He finished and retreated to the visiting clubhouse, where he would soon speak with reporters.
But right-hander Yu Darvish -- who stifled the Dodgers across seven innings of one-run ball -- was up first in the Zoom room. Tatis had a few moments to spare. So he got his dad on the phone.
Junior and Senior have been talking a lot lately. Tatis Sr. was in San Diego when Tatis Jr. sustained his shoulder injury. He was there for the slump, too. The elder Tatis, an accomplished 11-year big leaguer himself, had some advice for his son -- a superstar with a record contract, yes, but also a 22-year-old still trying to figure out life in the big leagues.
“He was like: ‘Hey, this game’s going to beat you down all the way to the ground, but the next day, the game’s going to bring you up,’” Tatis Jr. said. “You need to find a way to maintain yourself every single day.”
On Friday night, Tatis Sr. was back in the Dominican Republic -- “chillin’ out there,” said Tatis Jr. The two shared a brief moment before Tatis Jr. took his spot at the podium.
“He was really happy,” Tatis Jr. said. “We were talking about it. He would say just how blessed we are, how blessed this game has been to us. It’s just been a celebration.”