Another leadoff blast for Tatis on 2-HR night

August 9th, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- Call him the human 1-0 lead.

sure knows how to start a ballgame. For the second consecutive night, the Padres’ shortstop launched a leadoff home run with his team’s first swing of the game. This time, he followed it by crushing a solo blast in the eighth inning, marking the second multi-homer game of his career. He's tied with the Reds' Nick Castellanos for the National League in homers with seven.

“His swing, his decision-making, all those things -- right now, he's dialed in,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said.

Tatis' pair of home runs was all the offense San Diego could muster, as Arizona evened the series with a 3-2 victory on Saturday night at Petco Park. The Padres have hit five homers in the first two games of the series, but they’ve all been solo shots and have served as their only offensive production.

Tatis' leadoff blast was the eighth of his career, which is two away from the Padres' franchise record held by Will Venable. A reminder: Tatis is a 21-year-old who has played only 99 games. Venable spent eight seasons with the Padres, playing 918.

There’s seemingly only one way that Tatis doesn’t eventually break Venable’s record: If he stops hitting in the leadoff spot. Considering his other-worldly power, there’s at least a small possibility that happens.

But the Padres are enamored with the havoc that Tatis can create on the basepaths. Plus, they’ve typically used an on-base threat in the No. 9 spot to serve as something of a second leadoff man in front of Tatis.

“We like the idea of him hitting up top, just knowing that he's probably going to get the most at-bats on the night right now, and he's in a pretty good groove,” Tingler said. “With that being said, are we open to looking at some things? Absolutely. But he's in a pretty good groove right now, and we'd love to see him stay locked in.”

Tatis, to his credit, seems open to anything.

“I don’t mind, man,” Tatis said. “Wherever they need me, I’m going to work for it.”

It's already the third time that Tatis has hit leadoff homers on back-to-back nights. Damian Jackson (June 26-27, 2005) is the only other Padres hitter to accomplish that feat even once. Tatis first did so on July 29-30, 2019. Then, he pulled it off again Aug. 7-8, 2019. Yes, remarkably, he has homered to lead off games on Aug. 7 and 8 in consecutive years.

Tatis' leadoff homer on Saturday wasn't a first-pitch blast like his home run against Arizona's Luke Weaver on Friday night. This time, Merrill Kelly threw a ball, before grooving a belt-high, 1-0 fastball. Not a good idea when you're facing the sport's average exit velocity leader. Sure enough, Tatis demolished it, as the ball came off the bat at 110.2 mph, per Statcast, and it traveled a projected 394 feet into the left-field seats.

“I'm just ready for my fastball, every time,” Tatis said of his approach to leading off a game. “They hang it, I've just got to put a good swing on it.”

In the eighth, Tatis again worked himself a favorable count, before Hector Rondón grooved a 2-0 fastball. (Perhaps a bit more excusable, considering Arizona’s two-run lead at the time.) Tatis made Rondón pay just the same, swatting a 402-foot blast which left his bat at 101 mph.

But the Padres wouldn’t get any closer than 3-2. Tommy Pham worked a one-out walk in the ninth, bringing the winning run to the plate. However, Eric Hosmer, in his first game back from the injured list, hit a deep drive that died at the warning track, before Wil Myers lined out to left to end the game.

It left San Diego to rue a handful of missed opportunities, none more glaring than the third inning. Greg Garcia led off with a double before Tatis singled him to third, his second of three hits, which brought Tatis’ 2020 slash line to a remarkable .322/.412/.780.

It almost certainly would’ve plated Garcia, but third-base coach Glenn Hoffman played things safe, knowing the heart of the Padres’ order was due up. Trent Grisham followed by striking out, and a slumping Manny Machado bounced into an inning-ending double play.

The D-backs took the lead in the sixth on a pair of solo homers from Starling Marte and Stephen Vogt. Padres starter Chris Paddack was sharp through five innings, but he came undone with a pair of misplaced fastballs in the sixth.

“The game sped up on me,” Paddack said. “Had a few mental mistakes I wish I could go back and redo.”

In his postgame Zoom interview, Paddack spoke for a few minutes, lamenting the way his fastball command dipped during the last couple innings. When he was finished at the podium, he briefly stood and readied to leave. Then, he changed his mind.

Paddack had something he wanted to get off his chest, so he lowered his face to the microphone for one final statement.

“I’m glad,” Paddack said, “that Tatis is on our team.”