'He's so good': Tatis wows in 1st 3-HR game
Padres shortstop belts trio of homers in 1st 4 innings, now tied for MLB HR lead
SAN DIEGO -- Fernando Tatis Jr. may be out of the 2021 T-Mobile Home Run Derby, but he staged his own version on Friday night.
The Padres' superstar shortstop authored the first three-homer game of his career -- and he needed only four frames to do so, going deep in the first, second and fourth innings in an 11-5 drubbing of the D-backs at Petco Park.
“Since I was a kid, that was one on my bucket list,” Tatis said. “Gladly, today, we did that.”
Tatis came to the plate in the seventh and eighth innings with a chance to become the 19th player in MLB history -- and the first Padre -- to hit four home runs in a game. The 22-year-old singled and grounded out sharply, settling instead for a thrilling 4-for-5 night and the title of youngest Padres player with a three-homer game.
The Padres notched their eighth straight victory, all of which have come since the ballpark opened to full capacity last week, on a five-homer night.
“It’s just been an amazing time,” Tatis said. “Seeing full capacity, it just hypes us. It gives us way more energy. You can feel the fans.”
They’re feeling him, too. Tatis was serenaded with “M-V-P” chants that grew louder every time he stepped to the plate.
Tatis hit solo homers in each of the first two innings as part of back-to-back shots -- his first-inning blast came after a Tommy Pham leadoff homer and his second-inning home run was followed by a Jake Cronenworth blast. In the fourth, he launched an opposite-field two-run shot, giving the Padres an 8-5 lead.
Tatis entered the night trailing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. by three home runs for the Major League lead. He ended it tied with the Blue Jays slugger at 25 -- despite having spent two stints on the injured list.
“You would think it would surprise you,” Padres right-hander Chris Paddack said. “But at this point, it’s expected. He’s so good, man, it’s fun to watch.”
Paddack, so reliable of late, slumped to his shortest start of the season, allowing five runs over 2 1/3 innings. Afterward, he emphasized turning the page.
The Padres staked Paddack to a quick lead. Pham and Tatis became the third pair of Padres teammates to open a game with consecutive home runs -- and the first since Tatis did so alongside Franmil Reyes on July 29, 2019. The only other time the Padres did so, Marvell Wynne, Tony Gwynn and John Kruk opened a game with three straight home runs on April 13, 1987.
On Friday afternoon, Tatis acknowledged that he wouldn’t be taking part in next month’s Home Run Derby at Coors Field, citing the health of his balky left shoulder, which has flared up on him twice already this season. Still, Tatis seems like a lock for a spot in the All-Star Game, as he’s currently leading NL shortstops in voting.
"That's going to be a dream come true, if we make it happen," Tatis said -- and let’s be honest, that “if” hardly seems necessary.
Tatis might not be the Padres' only middle infielder headed to Denver next month. Cronenworth’s home run was his fourth in as many games, as he continued his torrid pace at the plate. Plus, manager Jayce Tingler pointed to a key defensive play by Cronenworth as the game’s turning point.
A half-inning after Tatis’ third home run, the D-backs brought the tying run to the plate in the fifth in the form of Josh Rojas. He hit a routine grounder to first, and Eric Hosmer made an accurate flip. But Padres reliever Miguel Diaz couldn’t corral it. The ball skittered away -- and there was Cronenworth in the right place at the right time.
Cronenworth picked the ball up and caught Nick Ahmed straying too far off second base. He ran toward the runner, before firing to Tatis, who applied the tag for the final out of the inning.
“That’s winning baseball,” Tingler said. “And that’s what can separate. There’s a ton of talent in this league. … But these are separators. In this game, you can’t control a lot of things that go on. You can certainly control attitude and effort and getting to the right spots.”
Tatis’ glovework has been excellent lately, too, and Friday night marked one of his best defensive games of the season. He made a trio of excellent running plays, including the final out of the game.
It’s worth pointing out just how much Tatis’ early season defensive woes have subsided. He’s committed one error in his past 19 games. In the meantime, he’s piecing together one of the most remarkable offensive seasons in Padres history, and he added to his own legend with a three-homer game.
But, yeah, he really, really wanted that fourth.
“You’re almost never satisfied,” Tatis said with a laugh. “But we took it simple. I think I put two good swings on the ball. It didn’t go out. It’s OK, I already had three. I cannot get mad for that.”