Might in right: Tatis hits 2 HRs, plays outfield

August 16th, 2021

PHOENIX -- New position, same result.

It didn’t take long to make his presence felt on Sunday afternoon after coming off the 10-day injured list. And it could not have come at a better time for the Padres.

Playing in right field for the first time in his professional career, Tatis homered twice off D-backs starter Zac Gallen to lead the Padres to an 8-2 victory at Chase Field. The Padres avoided the four-game sweep as Tatis finished 4-for-5 with four RBI and three runs scored.

“Just make them remember why they miss you,” Tatis said. “I feel like that’s what it is. The hunger of being outside and not doing anything for my team for so long, I really felt bad. So, coming back, you bring your 100%, take a chill and do what you know what to do.”

The Padres maintained their lead in the race for the second National League Wild Card spot, 2 1/2 games over the Reds.

“[Tatis Jr.] is just that personality that guys gravitate to, and, obviously, it’s great having him back,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said.

Tatis missed 15 days because of a partially dislocated left shoulder, but his swing showed no ill effects of the injury. He led off the game with a double and launched a 416-foot solo home run to left field in the top of the third inning. He hit a 382-foot solo drive in the fifth and upped his National League-leading season total to 33 home runs.

“Fernando being Fernando just never ceases to amaze any of us,” Padres first baseman said. “Coming right off the IL and not missing a beat, getting us going in the first inning and doing what he does.”

Tatis Jr. snared the first ball hit to him in right field, a routine fly off the bat of David Peralta, with ease. He had three putouts in seven innings before took over in right field.

Tatis described the new position as “chill” and already looks comfortable in the outfield. Just don’t get used to seeing him in the right field every day. There’s a chance he will be back at shortstop in the future. He could also see action in center field and left field.

“It's not that he's moving to the outfield permanently or anything like that,” Padres general manager A.J. Preller said before the game. “What we've talked to him about is that it will be combination getting him in the lineup and about our team and what may fit with our club.”

The Padres might have missed Tatis’ bat more than his glove. They hit nine home runs during his absence, 27th among the 30 MLB teams.

But there’s only so much Tatis can do. The pitchers posted a 6.55 ERA with a .331 opposing batting average and a .943 OPS in four games against Arizona.

Here’s else what happened in Arizona:

Ace suffered a back injury in first game of the series Thursday, a 12-3 loss, and labored through five innings of another defeat Friday, this time a 3-2 walk-off loss. D-backs rookie Tyler Gilbert threw a no-hitter in a 7-0 win against the Padres on Saturday in his first big league start.

Their performance in Arizona was enough to prompt Hosmer to give an impromptu speech Saturday night after the no-hitter. Tingler stopped just short of calling that loss the lowest point of the season.

The good news? Tatis is back. The not-so-good news? Less than an hour after announcing Tatis’ return, the club placed Darvish on the 10-day IL. The Padres are now searching for a pitcher to replace Darvish, who was scheduled to start Tuesday in Colorado.

“If we're going to play in the postseason, it's not about worrying who's in front of us or behind us,” Preller said. “We just have to start playing up to our capabilities.”

Tatis’ presence immediately improves the lineup. But how do the Padres fix their other problems? The search for the answer is what keeps Preller up at night.

“Let's analyze where we're at,” Preller said. “What are we doing? Is there something we need to change? Is there something we need to adjust? Those conversations are happening all the time with our group.

“Ultimately, the last few days have not been what our expectations are, and there's nobody in that room that feels like this is acceptable.”

The Padres will resume play Monday with three games against the Rockies followed by three against the Phillies in San Diego. Further ahead is another important showdown against the Wild Card-leading Dodgers starting Aug. 24 at Petco Park.

“We’re going to bounce back as a team,” Tatis Jr. said. “I’m totally confident in my team. This is baseball It’s going to bring you up, it's going to bring you down. You just have to find a way to ride that wave.”