Victor Caratini might not qualify as a Padres newcomer anymore. He has earned his Slam Diego stripes.
Caratini hit a tie-breaking grand slam -- San Diego’s first of the season -- in the top of the sixth inning Wednesday afternoon to lift the Padres to a 5-3 victory over the Rockies in Game 1 of a seven-inning doubleheader at Coors Field.
The 401-foot drive to right field on a 2-0, 97.8 mph fastball from reliever Robert Stephenson was Caratini’s second career grand slam. The first came back in 2018, Caratini’s second season in the big leagues.
The Padres earned the “Slam Diego” moniker last season, when they became the first team in Major League history to hit grand slams in four straight games. With the feat came an order of “Slam Diego” T-shirts the 2020 squad proudly wore under their game jerseys.
Caratini now can be fitted with a T-shirt of his own after his first Padres slam. He arrived in San Diego with batterymate Yu Darvish in the Padres’ late-December trade with the Cubs.
“He’s obviously performing well on the field, based on big hits in key moments,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “He’s also a great clubhouse guy. I think it was a good move for him to come here.”
Caratini’s slam helped the Padres pull out a win despite a makeshift lineup and Darvish’s shortest start with the Padres. The right-hander allowed one unearned run over four innings on two hits and a walk.
Darvish was pulled in favor of a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning, as the Padres scraped for runs against Rockies starter Jon Gray. Five Padres position players are on the injured list because of COVID-19 protocols.
One of the callups, Patrick Kivlehan, fought back from an 0-2 count in the sixth inning to draw a walk to load the bases and end Gray’s outing, just ahead of Caratini’s slam. Manager Jayce Tingler, meanwhile, adapted to the revised roster by rolling the dice on pulling Darvish early and utilizing closer Mark Melancon for a five-out save.
That pinch-hit strategy paid off with one run in the fifth. An inning later, Caratini provided enough cushion for the Padres’ bullpen to navigate the Coors Field obstacle course to a victory.
It took a running catch in short right field by Austin Nola, playing second base instead of his normal spot at catcher, to record the final out.
“We had guys playing their secondary positions, but we have ballplayers and we have athletes,” Tingler said. “We’re a little bit short-handed on the bench. … But it’s an opportunity for us to come closer and develop even better chemistry. … Honestly, it’s kind of a fun time because we have guys coming together."