Soto smashes, Tatis taters: Padres powered by pair's moonshots

May 27th, 2023

NEW YORK -- The first deck at Yankee Stadium couldn’t contain and on Friday night.

The two Padres superstars clearly love hitting on the big stage, and in consecutive innings of San Diego's series-opening 5-1 victory, each mashed a majestic second-deck moonshot -- Soto to right field in the fifth and Tatis to left in the sixth.

To say they were no-doubters would be an understatement. Soto’s blast left his bat at 114.1 mph and carried a Statcast-projected 432 feet; Tatis’ at 113.4 mph and a projected 439 feet. Informed of those metrics after the game, Padres manager Bob Melvin made an astute observation.

“Yeah,” Melvin said, cracking a wry grin. “Those usually get out.” 

On top of it, both home runs came with bat-flips befitting of the superstars who hit them.

First was Soto. Yankees right-hander Randy Vásquez tried to sneak a cutter past him on the inner-half of the plate. Bad idea. You see, Vásquez had thrown Soto a cutter earlier in the at-bat, and Soto fouled it off his left knee.

“I was a little mad,” Soto said. “I fouled it off myself. I don't like that. Then he threw me the same pitch, trying to make me foul it off again. I was a little [ticked] off. I just took all my madness out on the ball."

Soto unloaded on it, tying his hardest-hit home run in the big leagues and giving the Padres a 2-0 lead. For a moment, he watched it. Then, before he trotted to first, he thumped his bat onto the grass in foul territory and pounded his chest. There could no longer be any doubt: Soto is all the way back.

On the Padres’ current road trip, Soto has now come to the plate 19 times. He’s reached base in 13 of those plate appearances, with a pair of home runs. The first came Tuesday at Nationals Park -- where he’s clearly comfortable hitting. But Soto, who has homered four times in five games at Yankee Stadium, loves hitting in the Bronx, too.

“You’ve got 314 in the corner,” Soto said afterward. “Who doesn’t like that?”

If Soto is all the way back from his early-season slump, Tatis isn’t quite there yet. He hasn’t fully returned to form since coming back from his PED suspension last month.

Relatedly, Tatis heard plenty of boos at Yankee Stadium Friday night and responded by, quite literally, shrugging them off. He playfully engaged with the right-field bleacher creatures, despite the taunts (which, understandably, mostly subsided after the sixth). More than anything, Tatis seemed to be enjoying himself.

“It was loud. It’s New York, you’re going to hear everything,” Tatis said. “But I’m just giving a good time to the fans. You’ve just got to learn how to embrace it and how to just give them some good feedback.”

A reporter followed up by asking Tatis for his best comeback of the night. There was only one answer.

“That home run,” Tatis said with a laugh.

He launched a hanging Ron Marinaccio changeup deep into the New York night. As he watched, he flipped his bat toward the Padres’ dugout without looking and embarked upon his trot around the bases.

It was the second prodigious second-deck homer at Yankee Stadium in a matter of two innings. Impossible to pick between the two. But what about the bat flips? 

The wrath of Soto or the grace of Tatis?

There at least seemed to be consensus on that question.

“Fernando’s done it a million times, I think he’s gotten better than me,” Soto said.

Added Tatis: “I’ll go myself. Juan hit the floor.”

The rest was relatively straightforward for the Padres.  turned in his best start of the season, 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball. The bullpen nailed it down. And Rougned Odor tacked on an RBI single in the ninth.

“It makes you feel good as a team,” Melvin said. “That’s what these guys do. … When you get contributions like that and see how they can change the game so quickly, it just gives you more confidence as a team.”

Don’t look now, but the Padres have won four of five. Their offense, despite those persistent RISP woes, is coming to life.

“This shows you that whenever we get it together and we play as a team, everything goes in a good way,” Soto said. “We showed it all today. We played great defense. Joe did his thing.”

Quite a formula.

Pitching. Defense. And 871-feet worth of homers from two of the sport’s biggest superstars.