Down to last out, Tatis flips the script 

May 30th, 2021

The Padres have played four straight extra-inning games for the first time in franchise history. They’ve played 16 hours and 46 minutes of hard-fought baseball over four days. 

They’re tired. But they refuse to rest until the final out. 

The Padres played beyond the apparent final out Saturday at Minute Maid Park as Fernando Tatis Jr. turned an extra swing into a mammoth game-tying, three-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning. That set the table for Wil Myers to seal an 11-8 victory over the Astros with a three-run homer of his own in the 12th inning.

“At the end of the day, we wound up with the ‘W,’ and that’s the big thing,” Tatis said. 

“It’s fine when you go out and win,” Myers said on the Bally Sports San Diego postgame show.

The Padres came excruciatingly close to not winning.

The Padres trailed, 6-3, and had runners on second and third base with two outs when Tatis came to the plate in the ninth inning. He had struck out three times in the game and appeared to end a frustrating day when he popped up a 1-0 fastball from right-hander Ryan Pressly.

Astros first baseman Taylor Jones ranged to the edge of the stands and took measure of the ball, only to see it coming downward a few feet behind his position. As Jones tried to adjust, he brushed against the padding in front of the stands and tumbled to the ground.

The ball also found soil. The next one didn’t.

Tatis crushed a 94.8 mph fastball from Pressly, pulling the ball 448 feet to left field, above the decorative train tracks at Minute Maid Park. Tatis’ 15th homer, which left his bat at 114.9 mph, tied him for the National League lead with Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr.

“I feel like he tried to challenge me again, and I got the victory on that one,” Tatis said. “Put the barrel on the ball and had a very good result.”

Padres manager Jayce Tingler watched Tatis’ homer on TV from the trainer’s room, having been ejected for arguing a decision that went to replay. He was impressed that the 22-year-old superstar didn’t let his earlier strikeouts or the near-popout rattle him. 

“The ability to make adjustments, at-bat to at-bat and pitch to pitch -- that’s maturity, and that’s professional,” Tingler said. “When he makes adjustments pitch to pitch, look out. That ball he hit -- I didn’t get to see it live, unfortunately -- but you talk to coaches with over 100 years’ experience collectively, and they haven’t seen a ball struck like that.”

“It was top rail in. We’ve been going there all day, and we had success with him. I think he just [turned] on it, and you’ve got to tip your hat to him,” Pressly said. “He’s an unreal hitter. I’d be more upset if I missed middle-middle. We’ve been going there all game, and he finally decided he wasn’t going to get beat there anymore and just sold out for it and got it.”

The Padres won and maintained sole possession of the best record in baseball (34-19), despite getting only five innings from ace Yu Darvish, who struggled with his command in his first start vs. the Astros since the 2017 World Series. They won despite asking a weary bullpen to cover seven innings. They won despite letting Houston answer back after they took leads in the top of the 10th and 11th innings.

The Padres will take that win and figure out how to align the bullpen again Sunday, when Blake Snell will start as the team seeks a series sweep. And they’ll try to do it in nine, lest they tie the Major League record for consecutive extra-inning games (five, by the 1908 Tigers). 

“It’s a group of men who just refuse to give in, just absolutely keep going,” Tingler said. “Unbelievable. Laying everything they got out there -- pitching, defense, offensively. It’s a group that just won’t go away. And I love every aspect of it.”