The Matrix Reloaded: Tatis does it again

April 2nd, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- It was only the first game on 's record-setting 14-year contract. But he wasted no time delivering the five-tool thrills the Padres paid him for.

On Thursday afternoon at Petco Park, Tatis’ magic came on the basepaths.

After he singled in the fourth inning of the Padres' 8-7 Opening Day win over the D-backs, Tatis broke for second base on a delayed steal attempt. Then, he stopped, hung up.

Tatis had strayed too far from the bag, and D-backs catcher Stephen Vogt fired a strike to first baseman Christian Walker -- in plenty of time to get Tatis.

But Tatis isn't out until you tag him, and, well, good luck with that. You see, Tatis, as D-backs manager Torey Lovullo put it, has “the cheat code down.”

Tatis dove headfirst back into the bag, lifting his right arm to avoid Walker's tag while sweeping with his left. It was a Matrix-esque move that allowed him to remain safely on first base.

“He's an unbelievable student of the game, and it's a swim move and he dives to the outside part of the bag,” Lovullo said. “Our first basemen are trained to know that that body is going to be moving over there. But look, he's got the cheat code. He’s got the cheat code down. He does unbelievable things on the baseball field.”

Tatis would score later in the frame on Eric Hosmer’s double, giving the Padres a 6-1 lead.

“I’m not surprised anymore,” Hosmer said afterward. “I’ve been able to have a pretty good seat at watching him do what he does for a couple of years now. He can beat you in any way on the field. He can beat you offensively. He can beat you defensively. He can beat you on the bases as well. I think that’s what makes him so special.”

In those other two facets, Tatis mostly struggled on Thursday. He went 1-for-5 at the plate and committed a costly error in the fifth inning that led to three D-backs runs.

But that one hit marked the third consecutive Opening Day in which he has gotten a hit off Madison Bumgarner. He picked up the first two hits of his career against Bumgarner's Giants in 2019, then doubled in ’20 against the D-backs.

The play on Thursday was reminiscent of another amazing move by Tatis to get back to first base during his rookie season.

Against the Braves on July 14, 2019, Tatis was caught off first base on a pickoff throw by Mike Soroka in the bottom of the first inning at Petco Park. After a brief rundown, he pulled off one of the most acrobatic feet-first slides you'll ever see.

It became one of a handful of logic-defying plays that heralded Tatis’ arrival as a superstar in the big leagues.

Thursday’s slide was different. It was head-first -- more premeditated and less spontaneous.

Different method, same result. Tag him if you can.