Another HR riles a Padres opponent
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres lead the Majors this year in home runs that incite debate over the sport’s unwritten rules.
In San Diego's statement 7-2 victory over the Dodgers on Tuesday night, Trent Grisham launched a game-tying home run off Clayton Kershaw in the sixth inning. Then, Grisham turned and stared into the Padres' dugout before beginning his home run trot -- a bit too long for Dave Roberts' liking.
"I don’t mind guys admiring a homer; certainly it’s a big game, big hit,” the Dodgers' manager said. “Really like the player. But I just felt to overstay at home plate, against a guy like Clayton, who’s got the respect of everyone in the big leagues for what he’s done in this game, I just took exception to that. There’s a certain respect that you give a guy if you homer against him."
Grisham, of course, didn't view it that way. The Padres, winners of eight straight, are doing their best to close the gap on the Dodgers in the National League West. Grisham's blast tied the game at 1 and set San Diego on course for a victory that would narrow the Dodgers' lead to 1 1/2 games.
"It happened naturally in the moment," Grisham said. "It's a big situation off of a big pitcher in a big game. We looked forward to this series. It was one of the biggest series of the year. The look in the dugout was: 'Hey let's go, let's pick it up. ... Let's go get this game.'"
As Grisham rounded third base, the Dodgers’ dugout chirped at him. Grisham chirped back. He stomped on home plate with both feet. Home-plate umpire Mark Ripperger felt the tension and cautioned the Dodgers to remain in the dugout as Grisham retreated to the home dugout to celebrate with his teammates. Nothing further would come of the incident. (At least not on Monday night. The division rivals will play two more games at Petco Park this week).
It's the second time this season a Padres home run has prompted a visceral reaction in the opposing dugout. Fernando Tatis Jr.'s 3-0 grand slam drew the ire of the Rangers and manager Chris Woodward last month.
Of course, since Tatis' audacious 3-0 swing, the Padres are 21-5 -- the best record in the Majors in that span. At the time, they were a fun story. Now, they’re legitimate World Series contenders, set for their first postseason appearance in 14 years.
In Grisham’s eyes, a huge chunk of that success comes from the swagger the Padres play with.
"When we get excited and get after it and have fun playing the game, we go," Grisham said. "We've been going all year. That's exactly what that homer did for us."
The Padres chased Kershaw in the seventh and would score five times in the frame. Asked about Grisham's reaction after the game, Kershaw didn't quite share his manager's sentiment.
"I'm not going to worry about their team," Kershaw said. "Let him do what he wants."
Kershaw had cruised up to that point, and Grisham generally struggles against left-handed pitching. But Kershaw grooved a 2-1 fastball, and Grisham made no mistake. As he rounded first base, Grisham continued a personal tradition, signing the number nine using American Sign Language -- for his ninth homer of the season.
“On this stage, against that pitcher, no, I have never hit a better home run than that,” Grisham said.
A 23-year-old center fielder, Grisham is enjoying a breakout season for the Padres. He’s hitting .272 with an .835 OPS, and he’s a contender for a Gold Glove Award.
Padres manager Jayce Tingler turned some heads with his less-than-defensive response to Tatis’ home run last month. But he was quick to back Grisham, waving away any notion of unwritten rules being violated.
"It was a big moment in the game, and it was a huge hit," Tingler said. "It got us fired up, and we have fun. We play the game right, we respect the game, but we're going to have fun, and we're going to pull for one another. To us, that's all it is."