MLB

Padres, led by resurgent Fernando Tatis Jr., make wild comeback for series win vs. Dodgers

The San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers have played seven games this season, and almost all of them have been taut affairs. Sunday night’s five-hour-plus edition was no exception. 

The Padres stormed back from down big in the middle innings and wound up prevailing in 11 innings, 8-7 (box score). In doing so, they took three of four in Dodger Stadium and handed the reigning champs their first series loss of 2021. The Dodgers are just one game ahead of the San Francisco Giants in the NL West. The Padres at 13-11 are in third place and three games back. 

For a while, it looked like the Dodgers would cruise in the series finale, as they barged to a 7-1 lead in the sixth, which gave them a 99 percent chance to win the contest. The Padres, though, pecked away at it over the next three frames, as they scored two runs in the seventh, eighth, and ninth to tie it. 

As Jayson Stark noted on Twitter, the Padres and Dodgers have now played seven times this season, and in six of those games the potential tying run came to the plate in the ninth. 

Neither team was able to take advantage of the automatic runner in the 10th, but the Padres plated a run in the 11th. Mark Melancon earned the high-leverage save by getting out of two on, no out jam against the top of the L.A. order. Here’s an idea of the odds the Padres overcame in erasing that big deficit: 

Make that 101-13,547 overall and 1-49 this season. 

The leading subplot of this series was the scorching resurgence of Padres superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. Coming into this four-game set, Tatis had a seasonal slash line of just .154/.267/.333. Obviously, that’s far below his established standards, and it’s not what was expected of him coming off that $340 million contract extension. Sure, the sample size was tiny, but given that Tatis not so long suffered a semi-serious shoulder injury, it seemed possible he might not find his level for a while. Well, find his level he did. Over those four games, Tatis went 8 for 17 with five home runs (!), two walks, and three stolen bases. That blistering mini-stretch occasioned some history: 

He also became the first shortstop ever to homer three straight days at Dodger Stadium, which has been in use since 1962. Two of those home runs came off Clayton Kershaw, and then two more were at the expense of Trevor Bauer on Saturday, which touched off a back-and-forth on social media. On Sunday, his fifth home run of the series came against young fire-breather Dustin May, who was otherwise dominant in this one: 

Tatis is now batting a far more customary .246/.338/.632 with seven homers on the year (six of those against the Dodgers). He’s also tied for the MLB lead in home runs despite having played just 15 games. No less important, he’s boldly addressed any concerns that the injury to his front shoulder at the plate would somehow compromise his power. 

Because nothing is tidy about baseball, Tatis seemed poised to end his series on a bit of a down note, as he struck out in the 10th with two outs and runners on the corners. However, San Diego reliever Tim Hill in the home half stranded the automatic runner — including a strikeout of Kershaw in a pinch-hitting appearance — to keep the Pads alive. In the 11th, Tatis stole third base as the automatic runner and soon thereafter tagged up and scored the eventual winning run on Eric Hosmer’s deep fly. At the plate and on the bases, Tatis is back. 

The good news is that these two NL West rivals will play 12 more times during the 2021 regular season. The unfortunate qualifier is that we’ll have to wait until June 21 to see them cross swords again.



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