Any concerns that the backlash over his breaking another of baseball’s trivial, unwritten rules might negatively affect Fernando Tatis Jr. were dispelled in less than 24 hours, as the San Diego Padres‘ young phenom collected two sharp singles and a stolen base in his team’s 6-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday.
In his first three at-bats since he angered the opposing team by hitting a grand slam on a 3-0 pitch with his team up by seven runs in the eighth inning, Tatis hit three balls that traveled at least 105 mph — two resulting in base hits and another ending in a lineout. In the fourth inning, he swiped third base off Ian Gibaut — the man who seemingly threw at Manny Machado after Tatis’ grand slam — with an acrobatic slide to avoid the tag of Todd Frazier.
Padres outfielder Wil Myers, whose grand slam set the tone in Tuesday’s win, said the events of the prior night “didn’t really affect us.”
“There’s unwritten rules. It is what it is,” Myers said. “Some people see them a certain way. Some people see them another way. We saw it a certain way. They saw it another way. At the end of the day, it is what it is. Teams disagree. We want to go out and beat them on the field. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most. For us today, that was the whole goal.”
The controversy stemmed from Tatis’ major-league-leading 11th home run off Juan Nicasio in Monday’s top of the eighth, which capped a 14-4 rout and came one inning after a three-run shot. Rangers manager Chris Woodward was visibly upset after Tatis broke what is perceived to be a long-standing unwritten rule of not swinging on 3-0 when ahead late by so many runs. Gibaut, a rookie, then came on in relief and threw a fastball behind Machado, which prompted a three-game suspension from Major League Baseball.
Gibaut chose to appeal, which made him eligible for Tuesday’s game. Woodward served his one-game suspension immediately and said in a statement that he respects MLB’s decision. When asked about Tatis’ decision to swing on 3-0 earlier Tuesday, Woodward said, “I’m not pounding my fist on the table saying this was absolutely horrendous. I just thought it went past the line.”
Padres manager Jayce Tingler didn’t openly defend Tatis’ decision after Monday’s game but took exception to the notion that he didn’t have his best player’s back.
“It’s hard to look at that perception because being in the clubhouse, in the dugout, I feel like we’re a very tight unit,” said Tingler, who is in his first year as a major league manager. “I feel like not only do they feel like I and the coaching staff have their back, I feel it’s mutual. I feel that they have ours as well. It is kind of hard to see it from that lens because we’re so invested in these guys.”
Tingler began Tuesday’s pregame media session by saying that Tatis “had a special night” on Monday. He also said, “I wish that was the focus.” He added that the “teachable moment” he referenced regarded Tatis’ lifting his head up to pick up the “take” sign, not his breaking an unwritten rule. Tingler said he sat in front of Tatis on the bus ride back to the hotel Monday, and the two spent 20 minutes talking and laughing. Tingler spoke to Tatis again Tuesday morning.
“We’re good,” Tingler said. “I don’t know if there’s a story that there’s gonna be a rift or anything like that, but he’s an ultra-, ultra-, super-talented player. I can’t praise him enough for just his work ethic and everything he’s done. He just continues to grow. I don’t know what to say — he’s off and on his way, and we just have to keep him going.”