SAN DIEGO (AP) — What a wild, spectacular week it was for budding superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. and the San Diego Padres.
From Tatis’ grand slam on Monday night in Texas that reignited debates about “unwritten rules” to his jaw-dropping defensive play on a popup to left field on Sunday at Petco Park, the 21-year-old shortstop has the baseball world buzzing and the Padres on their longest winning streak in seven seasons.
Tatis Jr. made two spectacular plays and was on base for Manny Machado’s two-run home run in the eighth inning that gave the Padres a 5-3 win against the Houston Astros for a three-game sweep. San Diego’s bullpen did its part with a lockdown eight innings.
With one out in the eighth, George Springer lifted a fly ball to shallow left. Tatis raced after it and, with his blond dreadlocks flying behind him, leaped to make the catch. His momentum carried him several more yards. Springer couldn’t believe it and reliever Craig Stammen (3-1) clapped twice for the shortstop.
“Oh man, it’s just great being able to make that play for my pitcher and the rest of the team, too,” said Tatis, who grew up in “The Cradle of Shortstops,” San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. “What can I say, I just saw the ball and I just went after it and my body took care of it.”
At first, Tatis didn’t think he’d get to the ball. “I saw it had a little too much air, but the fact I never gave up on it and thank God for my speed and I got there,” he said.
Rookie manager Jayce Tingler was wide-ranging in his praise for the 6-foot-3 Tatis, whose father played in the major leagues for 11 seasons and raised his son in the game.
“The ground he covered on the Springer ball, he looks like an NFL No. 1 receiver going out on a high-corner fade and just going to make that play,” the manager said.
“We’ve got a No. 1 NFL receiver. We’ve got a point guard in the NBA. We’ve got a world-class FIFA soccer player, maybe an anchor on a 4×4 Olympic team,” Tingler continued. “We’re just blessed that he was born in the Dominican and grew up playing baseball. He’s a freak. The other thing, too, is how driven this guy is to not only be a great player, I think driven to be a champion, but more importantly, he wants to bring a World Series to the city of San Diego.”
Tatis led off the bottom of the inning and singled to right-center ahead of Machado’s eighth homer.
In the fifth, Tatis made a spinning stop of Jose Altuve’s grounder to start an inning-ending double play.
The Padres, who got to nemesis Zack Greinke in the fourth inning, have won seven straight, all against the two Texas teams. The Astros have lost three straight. They came in on an eight-game winning streak.
The Padres weren’t able to add on to their “Slam Diego” power display of the past week. On Saturday night, they became the first team in big league history to hit five grand slams in six games. They were also the first to hit a grand slam in four straight games, a streak started by Tatis on Monday night at Texas and continued by Machado with a walkoff grand slam Wednesday night at home against the Rangers.
The Padres never loaded the bases Sunday.
“We couldn’t keep them in the ballpark,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “I don’t know what the number was but they outhomered us 10-2 or 9-3 and that makes it difficult when you can’t keep them in the ballpark.”
After rookie Adrian Morejon allowed three runs before getting the second out of the game, the Padres held Houston scoreless the rest of the way.
Stammen pitched 1 1/3 perfect innings for the win. Emilio Pagán, the Padres’ sixth pitcher, worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save in six chances.
Greinke kept the Padres off-balance until the fourth, when they broke through to tie the game at 3. Tatis hit a leadoff single for San Diego’s first hit and scored on Eric Hosmer’s double into the right-field corner. Wil Myers walked and rookie Jake Cronenworth singled to right to bring in Hosmer.
Greinke complained about the mound, and the game was delayed so the grounds crew could work on it. Due to coronavirus protocols, all the players had to leave the field, although Greinke returned after a few minutes and was showing the workers what to do. Greinke then sat down cross-legged on the grass behind the mound while the workers smoothed the dirt.
When play resumed, JuricksonProfar’s grounder scored Myers to tie it.
Greinke said the mound was giving him issues, as were the Padres batters, who “had a good approach and made it a lot harder on me than I would have liked it to be.”
The Astros jumped on Morejon for three runs in the span of the first four batters, getting a one-out RBI single by Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker’s two-run homer, his third.
Greinke allowed three runs and four hits in six innings, struck out four and walked two. He came in 13-3 with a 2.37 ERA against San Diego in 25 career starts.
Morejon was lifted with two outs in the second after throwing 36 pitches. He allowed three runs and three hits, struck out three and walked one in 1 2/3 innings.
Astros: Haven’t named a starter for Monday night’s home game against the Angels.
Padres: After a day off, RHP Chris Paddack (2-2, 4.26) is scheduled to start Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game home series against Seattle, which will counter with LHP Marco Gonzales (2-2, 3.34).