Don't look now: Tatis tied for MLB HR lead

August 10th, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- This time, waited until the second inning for his daily display of ridiculous power.

The Padres' 21-year-old phenom was at it again on Sunday afternoon, celebrating his 100th game with his 30th career home run in the Padres' 9-5 victory over the D-backs at Petco Park. Tatis has gone deep five times during his career-best four-game homer streak -- and six times in the last six.

He struck out in the first inning Sunday, ending his bid for three straight games with a leadoff blast. But Tatis made up for it an inning later when he unloaded on a 2-2 curveball from Madison Bumgarner. D-backs left fielder David Peralta didn't even turn as the ball soared into the first row of the second deck, a projected 418 feet, according to Statcast.

It was Tatis' eighth home run of the season, making him the current leader for the National League, and tying him with Aaron Judge for most in the Majors.

If Tatis ends up alone atop the Major League home run leaderboard, he would join Eddie Mathews (1953) and Sam Crawford (1901) as the only players in the Modern Era (since 1900) to do so in their age-21 seasons. No one has led the Majors in home runs at a younger age.

"Being 21 years old, he's a freak athlete, and he's getting stronger," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. "He's able to get barrel to ball on maybe some more pitches that he hadn't been able to. He's been working on his swing, shortening that up.

"You see the way the ball's coming off the bat. He can leave the ballpark [anywhere]. It's just credit to him for putting in the work and going for it. He's a very talented player."

Of course, Tatis was a talented player last year, too. But he didn’t quite tap into his power with this kind of regularity.

Tatis chalks that up to his newfound approach at the plate. He has been swinging at pitches outside the strike zone at a significantly lower clip this season. That frees Tatis up to do plenty of damage when he does get a pitch to hit.

"It's just approach," Tatis said Saturday night. "I learned a lot from last year, all the chase. That's what we worked on during those three off-months. I really emphasized that, and I was just trying to get better at the plate."

Perhaps the craziest part of Tatis' power surge is that power has never been his primary weapon. Tatis has played a solid shortstop this season with a cannon for an arm, and he's already swiped four bags. In 16 games, he's hitting .333/.417/.810.

At 21, Tatis is already one of the game's premier five-tool superstars. On Sunday, he became the first shortstop in the modern era to hit 30 home runs in his first 100 games.

"It's incredible,” said , who homered twice on Sunday, including a follow-up to Tatis’ second-inning blast. “What he's been doing is what I've seen for a long time, since I showed up here. In this little short stretch of a week, he's not missing pitches. ... He's been the big spark."

Tatis matches his otherworldly skill set with a larger-than-life on-field persona, too. He plays baseball with unbridled joy.

Recently, Tatis added a post-home run dance to his repertoire. When he reaches the bottom of the dugout steps, he breaks into a shimmy -- as only Tatis can -- while his teammates celebrate around him.

"His moves are fantastic," Tingler said. "I hope I get to see more. … He's got big-time flow and big-time rhythm."

And big-time power.