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Tatis startles everyone, scores on infield popup

@JakeCrouseMLB
June 23, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- Very rarely does a popup a few feet back behind the infield dirt become a sacrifice fly. But very rarely do players make heads-up plays like Fernando Tatis Jr. With one out in the first inning of Sunday’s 11-10, 11-inning loss to the Pirates, Tatis stood on third

PITTSBURGH -- Very rarely does a popup a few feet back behind the infield dirt become a sacrifice fly. But very rarely do players make heads-up plays like Fernando Tatis Jr.

With one out in the first inning of Sunday’s 11-10, 11-inning loss to the Pirates, Tatis stood on third base after Manny Machado ripped a ground-rule double to right. Hunter Renfroe stepped up to the plate next, and he skied a 2-2 offering from Pirates starter Steven Brault to second baseman Kevin Newman.

Newman caught the ball and turned to shortstop Jung Ho Kang after Tatis tagged and jogged a few steps down the third-base line. When Newman clutched as if to start throwing around the horn, the Padres’ rookie phenom blazed home, challenging Newman’s arm.

“[I was] just waiting for the moment he sleeps on me,” Tatis said, “then I’m gone.”

Tatis was initially called out, but he had no doubts. The former No. 1 prospect in all of baseball trotted confidently back to the dugout, getting high-fives all around. The Padres challenged, and video review showed Tatis slid his hand under the tag of catcher Elias Diaz.

“He made an aggressive play,” Newman said. “He kind of caught me on my heels. Nothing really more to it than that. I’m going to take it as a learning moment and never let that happen again.”

It ended up going for naught in a nearly five-hour affair at PNC Park, but manager Andy Green still recognized just how unique that tone-setting play was from his dynamic rookie.

“That was a special way to start a baseball game off,” Green said. “He’s a special athlete, and he does incredible things.”

Jake Crouse is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter @JakeCrouseMLB.