The Texas Rangers Wednesday night offered another sign of what major league teams think of Fernando Tatis Jr.
With Manny Machado on deck and runners at the corners with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning, Rangers reliever Rafael Montero pitched gingerly to Tatis, finally walking the 21-year-old shortstop to load the bases — for Machado, who delivered a walk-off grand slam for a 6-3 victory.
And on Thursday night, the Rangers will need to figure out all over again just what to do with Tatis and his teammates. The Padres will look to complete a four-game sweep of the Rangers in a home-and-home series, with this game at Petco Park in San Diego.
It’s a dilemma for all the teams in the National League West and American League West who must face the young, talented Padres this season. And it all starts with Tatis.
Before taking the walk in the 10th on Wednesday, Tatis homered off Lance Lynn, who entered the game with the lowest earned-run average in the majors.
It was Tatis’ 12th homer in 26 games. He leads the majors in homers, runs (25) and RBIs (29), and he also is tied for the major-league lead with six stolen bases.
In just his second season, he is putting up numbers that match those of the all-time greats.
No player in MLB history has finished the season by winning home run, RBI, runs scored and stolen bases titles. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three players have ranked in the top three in each of those categories, and they’re all in the Hall of Fame — Henry Aaron (1963), Willie Mays (1955) and George Sisler (1920).
Tatis’ 12 home runs are the most by a 21-year-old in a team’s first 26 games of a season since Mel Ott hit 10 in that span in 1929. If he winds up leading the majors in home runs this season, he would be the third player ever to do so at 21 or younger, and the first since Eddie Mathews in 1953.
Tatis in on pace to hit 27 homers, steal 14 bases, score 58 runs and drive in 67 in a 60-game season.
And he’s picking up the pace. Over his past five games, Tatis is 8 for 21 with a double, four homers, 11 RBIs and nine runs scored.
“What he’s been doing has been one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of — of anything I’ve ever seen,” Machado said. “He’s a special kid. He’s a special player, and he’s got a very bright future ahead of him. He’s a big part of why we’re winning these ballgames.”
Rangers manager Chris Woodward said Wednesday night’s loss was hard to swallow.
“It’s a tough one, man,” he said. “We fought our butt off tonight. Montero gave it everything he had, tried to pitch two innings right there to get us a win. … I’ve got to give them credit. They fought Monty pretty hard right there. Monty was making some pretty tough pitches. Tatis had some really good foul balls just the whole at-bat, Machado did the same thing. They kind of wore him down.”
The Padres and Rangers have seen their fortunes reverse in this series. The Padres had lost five straight before they landed in the Dallas area Monday. And the Rangers had won seven of their past nine before facing San Diego. The Padres have climbed back into the National League playoff picture while the Rangers have slipped from the top eight in the American League.
The season finale between the Padres and Rangers will feature a pair of right-handers — Dinelson Lamet (2-1, 1.59 ERA) for the Padres and Kyle Gibson (1-2, 3.74 ERA) for the Rangers.
The 28-year-old Lamet will be facing the Rangers for the first time Thursday. He has allowed one earned run in each of his five starts this season. He has worked a total of 28 1/3 innings, giving up 15 hits and eight walks with 36 strikeouts. He is averaging 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
Gibson, 32, faced the Padres once before, in 2017, while pitching for the Minnesota Twins. He blanked San Diego on four hits and no walks with six strikeouts over six innings in his lone appearance against San Diego.
In his first four starts this season, the 6-foot-6, 215-pound Gibson gave up 12 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and seven walks with 17 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings.
–Field Level Media