SAN DIEGO — The craziest part of robbing Fernando Tatis Jr.’s home. on wednesday night? How smooth and easy he made it all look.
With the Padres looking for an insurance seventh, Tatis took matters into his own hands. He jogged a few steps down the third-base line, then a few more, before breaking into a full sprint for home, completing a straight steal of home in the Padres’ 5-2 victory over the Orioles at Petco Park.
“I just did,” Tatis said afterward.
And he was so easily safe, he didn’t even get a shot off Orioles left-hander Zionel Perez.
The game was essentially Tatis — just the right combination of instincts and athleticism on the basepaths.
“I play a kid with him who’s a witch and rides his broom around the bases,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “That’s exactly what happened there. It’s like: When it takes off, everybody just gets nervous.”
The Padres, of course, have spent the past few months searching for the kind of spark that could propel them back into the National League playoff picture. They still have a lot of work to do. But this was definitely the kind of spark they were looking for.
Especially since he helped put the finishing touches on a much-needed streak win over the Orioles, who own the best record in the American League. The Padres have made up two complete games of ground in the Wild Card race over the past two days and are now 4 1/2 games out of a playoff spot.
“This is a good team to get two wins from,” said left-hander Blake Snell, who threw six innings of two-run ball. “So keep it rolling, keep it going. We play good football.”
Tatis’ steal marked the ninth straight home run in franchise history and the first since Travis Jankowski hit it in August 2016. Tatis could only recall one other home run in his professional career — playing for the High -A Fort Wayne on the Bowling Green.
The stakes were significantly higher this time. The Padres and Orioles had lost it for six innings, separated by a run before Trent Grisham’s solo shot gave San Diego a two-run lead in the seventh.
Tatis wanted more. He singled with two outs, then broke for second, and when Pérez’s throw got away, he advanced to third. Juan Soto walked on the one-hitter, and Tatis noticed that the lefty Perez — facing first base — didn’t seem to care. So Tatis took a few steps at a light jog, testing the waters.
“I was trying not to draw attention from the start with a small lead,” Tatis said. “Their third baseman was a little off. So I just saw [Pérez] i got engaged and started setting up, i just took my first four steps. I was looking at him the whole way. I saw he was still looking down.
“And when he saw me, I had already passed the house.”
That’s not really much of an exaggeration.
“I saw him crawl, crawl, and then he just took off,” Orioles first baseman Ryan Mountcastle said. “I think, at that moment, Sionel had already come on set, and the timing was just perfect.”
“He’s a very aggressive starter and very instinctive,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “You have to be a little more aware. We need to be a little more aware on the field in this situation. But he’s a plus runner — a great runner who has instincts.”
Soto jumped out of the box, allowing Tatis to slide safely to the plate. Tatis immediately stood up and clapped his hands as Petco Park erupted.
“I’m thinking, ‘OK, I’ve got to hit the ball, I’ve got to get him home, I’ve got to get that RBI,'” Soto said. “And then out of nowhere, I see him running. I’m like, ‘Wow!’ just really impressive.”
Based on last week’s figures, Tatis seems to be all the way back. After a recent slump, he is 12-for-25 over the last six games and has made some adjustments to make his swing more solid.
“I’ve shortened a bit,” Tatis said. “I’m trying to put better at-bats out there. Sometimes, this game makes you forget how good a player I am, as I can hit the ball all over the court. I just got back into it.”
And when he’s on base…
“He’s so good, he’s so talented,” Snell said. “Everything is possible.”
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