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Mejia's walk-off slam caps wild win for Padres

September 16, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- Francisco Mejia's only been a Padre for two weeks.He authored the moment of a lifetime on Sunday afternoon at Petco Park.Two outs, bases loaded, tie game, bottom of the ninth -- the rookie catcher strode to the plate, and he wasted no time putting his stamp on

SAN DIEGO -- Francisco Mejia's only been a Padre for two weeks.
He authored the moment of a lifetime on Sunday afternoon at Petco Park.
Two outs, bases loaded, tie game, bottom of the ninth -- the rookie catcher strode to the plate, and he wasted no time putting his stamp on a dramatic Padres victory. Mejia smashed the first pitch he saw from Rangers reliever Jeffrey Springs into the left-field seats, sending the Padres to a 7-3 win, by way of their first walk-off grand slam in more than three years.
Mejia circled the bases, doing his best to contain a smile. No chance. By the time he reached third, he broke into full celebration mode. At home plate, he was mobbed by his teammates, who doused him with buckets of Gatorade.

"It's a really special moment," Mejia said. "I was just looking for a good pitch, a pitch up in the zone. ... I got a good swing on it."
Did he ever.
Mejia's walk-off salami is the seventh in franchise history and the first since Derek Norris went deep against Pittsburgh on May 29, 2015. Mejia joins Everth Cabrera, who did so in '09 against the Mets, as the only Padres rookies to clear the bases with a game-winning homer.
"It's pretty clear he's not scared," Padres manager Andy Green said of the 22-year-old rookie. "He takes his swings, he's not afraid, and if he gets his pitch, he's going to do some damage."

The Padres trailed 3-2 entering the ninth, when Franmil Reyes' broken-bat bloop single sparked the rally. Freddy Galvis followed with a game-tying RBI double. After A.J. Ellis and Cory Spangenberg worked a pair of tough walks, the stage was set for Mejia.

MLB Pipeline's top-ranked catching prospect, Mejia came to the Padres in the July deal that sent Brad Hand and Adam Cimber to Cleveland. He earned his callup on Sept. 4, and homered twice in his first start two days later.
"Mejia, for us, has been as advertised from the day he showed up," Green said. "He's been a great kid, a great competitor."
Green isn't the only one who's come away thoroughly impressed by the early returns on Mejia, a switch-hitter who's currently rated as the sport's No. 21 overall prospect.
"Man, he's really tooled up," said Ellis. "The ball really comes off the bat. He's got an unbelievable arm. It's impressive. But I've also seen a guy who's eager to learn, work with his pitchers. And I've seen a guy getting more and more comfortable behind the plate."
The acclimation period has been swift. Mejia certainly wasn't treated like a rookie who's been in the big leagues for two weeks and joined the organization within the last two months. After an on-field TV interview, he headed up the tunnel toward the Petco Park home clubhouse. When he arrived, the party began.
"The energy, the moment, coming into the clubhouse and having everyone waiting for me there -- that'll be [what I remember]," Mejia said.
And he'll remember it for a long time.
In August, the Padres promoted right-hander Jacob Nix to the Majors with the hope that they'd learn a bit more about their No. 14 prospect. Nix had made just 16 starts above Class A. But they figured the best way to evaluate him would be to test his stuff at the highest level.

Seven starts into Nix's big league career, he remains an enigma. The 22-year-old right-hander was mostly sharp on Sunday, allowing three runs over six innings. But he struck out only three and surrendered solo home runs to Willie Calhoun in the second and Jurickson Profar in the third.

Strangely enough, that's been the formula for Nix thus far. He isn't striking out many hitters, and he's surrendered five home runs in 36 innings. It's not the standard recipe for success. But Nix has thrived throughout his career by pitching to contact.
"I throw a lot of strikes, and they're going to put strikes in play," Nix said. "It's not something where I say: 'I'm going to throw this fastball, and he's going to hit a pop fly.' I'm just trying to get outs. Any out's a good out."
The top of the ninth inning had its share of drama, too.
Green was ejected after rookie right-hander Trey Wingenter came up and in on Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos. The ball appeared to hit the knob of Chirinos' bat and it bounced back to Wingenter, who flipped to first base.
But home-plate umpire Ryan Blakney belatedly ruled the play dead. Blakney deemed it a foul ball, even though the ball rolled into fair territory (presumably making it either a hit-by-pitch or a groundout). Knowing the play couldn't be reviewed, Green asked for the umpires to overturn the call in a huddle. They didn't.

"It has to be a fair ball or a hit batter," Green said. "I'm not quite sure how we arrived at where we arrived. But they didn't want to fix the call on the field. They wanted to go to headset, which I was very adamant about: 'You can't go to the headset.' "
After receiving confirmation from the league that the play wasn't reviewable on Green's part, the Rangers challenged, arguing that Chirinos had been hit by the pitch. They won that challenge, and Green's ensuing tirade got him ejected.
The Rangers would load the bases against Wingenter, but closer Kirby Yates came on to strike out Rougned Odor before Profar popped out, ending the threat.
Javy Guerra struggled with the bat at the upper levels of the Minor Leagues. It's no secret that the rookie shortstop earned his promotion to the big leagues on the strength of his glove. He put that elite gove on full display Sunday. With two outs in the seventh, Profar hit a bloop into shallow left field. Guerra ranged to his right and made an all-out diving catch, ending the inning.

"There's really not a pitch he doesn't think he can hit. There's really not a pitch he can't get his barrel on. I don't want to go all the way into the extreme and talk about guys like Vladimir Guerrero or Yogi Berra or guys who just had that innate ability. But it's impressive to see." -- Ellis, on Mejia
Bryan Mitchell has allowed two earned runs in 11 innings since he returned from the disabled list at the start of September -- a stark contrast from his 7.08 ERA through mid-June. He credits his recent success to the development of his two-seam fastball, which he's used with much greater frequency of late. Mitchell starts Monday at Petco Park as the Padres open a three-game set against the Giants at 7:10 p.m. PT.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.