SAN DIEGO (AP) It had already been a tough afternoon in the late September sun when Fernando Tatis Jr. made a home run-robbing catch so spectacular it drew an ovation from the sellout crowd and admiration from his San Diego Padres teammates.
The grab by the shortstop-turned-right fielder, which denied pinch-hitter Michael Siani a two-run homer, was the highlight Sunday for the Padres, who were pushed closer to elimination from the playoff picture even as they beat the St. Louis Cardinals 12-2 in their home finale. Juan Soto had a big day as well, hitting a 461-foot homer and driving in four runs.
As the left-handed Siani drove a pitch from Michael Wacha to right in the sixth inning, Tatis retreated, took a quick glance at the 8-foot wall and perfectly timed his leap, extending his glove as far as he could to make the catch. His left shoulder was even with the wall when he brought the ball back in. After landing and regaining his balance, and with his dreadlocks flying, Tatis threw to first to try to double off Masyn Winn.
Tatis stood there for a moment, did his trademark dance while the crowd of 42,505 roared, and then acknowledged the fans. Manny Machado, not in the lineup due to right tennis elbow, stood at the dugout railing, smiled and raised his right index finger in the air. Wacha adjusted his cap and said, “Wow.”
“Oh, man, it felt amazing. I felt like a superhero or something like that. It was just a great moment," said Tatis, whose manager, Bob Melvin, and teammates feel he should win a Gold Glove Award.
“I just saw it and said I was not going to take it for granted or just let it go,” Tatis added. "I was going to give it my all. I think I took a pretty good jump. I grabbed it right at the very end in my glove. I was pumped, it was crazy and the crowd was loud and it was just a great moment of baseball.”
Tatis began his career as a shortstop but took over in right after he returned April 20 from an 80-game PED suspension. He missed all of last year with injuries and the suspension.
Tatis was left frustrated several times this season as he was either robbed himself or had long fly balls caught at the wall or the warning track.
“I’ve been a victim a lot of times this year so it’s very rewarding to do it on the defensive side,” he said.
In the second inning, Tatis lost Richie Palacios' fly ball in the sun and it dropped for a double. In the third, he battled the sun and made a sliding catch of Lars Nootbaar's fly ball.
Then came his big catch.
“You won’t see a better play than that, as far as that play goes,” Melvin said. “You may see a diving play or over the shoulder or whatever, but as far as robbing a home run with the height of that wall out there, you won’t see a better play than that.
“Hopefully that’s like the exclamation point on his case for the Gold Glove," the manager said.
Soto, who made three nice catches in left, said Tatis' catch was the best he'd ever seen.
“He’s just amazing. He’s the Gold Glove," Soto said. "He’s been doing everything right. He’s been playing amazing outfield defense in his first year in the outfield. I’m happy to share the field with him and see those amazing catches.”
Tatis, a 25-25 player despite missing the first 20 games as he finished serving his suspension, said it would mean a lot if won a Gold Glove.
“It was a new challenge since the beginning of the year moving out there and I've embraced it. I feel like everyone has seen the results and I'm very happy with it," he said.
Jose Azocar also homered for the Padres, who had nine extra-base hits in winning for the ninth time in 10 games. Their best stretch of the season is likely coming too late to avoid an embarrassing pratfall.
The Padres came into this season with World Series aspirations after reaching the NL Championship Series last fall but have been a major disappointment. They've been under .500 since May 12 despite having a payroll of around $250 million, the third-highest in the majors.
Xander Bogaerts doubled, tripled and scored twice for the Padres, who moved closer to elimination from the wild-card race after the Cubs and Diamondbacks both won.
Soto hit a three-run homer off lefty Drew Rom (1-4) in the first inning, his 33rd. It brought in Bogaerts, who was aboard on a leadoff double, and Ha-Seong Kim, who reached on a two-base error when right fielder Jordan Walker, fighting the sun, had the ball bounce off his glove as well as his right hand before it hit the ground.
Soto added an RBI double in the fourth and finished a triple shy of the cycle. He was one of four players to score two runs.
Luis Campusano also had three hits. Eguy Rosario tripled and scored on Bogaerts' triple in the second and then hit a two-run double in the sixth. The Padres tied their season high with 18 hits.
Wacha (13-4) held the Cardinals to two runs and six hits in seven innings while striking out six and walking one against his original team. His only big mistake was allowing Luken Baker's two-run homer in the seventh, his second.
Rom allowed eight runs, six earned, and 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings.
The announced sellout crowd of 42,505 extended the Padres' single-season home attendance record to 3,232,310, in 79 games. Two games against San Francisco in Mexico City in late April don't count in the total. It was the 61st sellout.
Cardinals: LHP Zack Thompson (5-7, 4.57 ERA) is scheduled to pitch Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game series at Milwaukee, which will counter with RHP Adrian Houser (7-4, 4.35).
Padres: LHP Blake Snell (14-9, 2.33), a leading NL Cy Young Award contender who leads the big leagues in ERA, is scheduled to start Monday night at San Francisco opposite RHP Logan Webb (10-13, 3.35).
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