SAN DIEGO (AP) — Fernando Tatis Jr.’s return from the COVID-19 injury list was nothing short of remarkable.
Cleared to play by Major League Baseball late Wednesday morning, the star shortstop got to the ballpark about an hour before first pitch, took a few swings in the batting cage and then played for the first time in 10 days.
“Go to that jungle, boy, survive,” he said.
Did he ever.
Tatis hit an impressive home run, went 4 for 4, finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle and even did the splits after stealing second base, leading the Padres over the Colorado Rockies 3-0 for a three-game sweep.
Tatis missed eight games. Forced to isolate at home, he said he was able to take just a few dry swings and went jogging one day. Otherwise, he said he did his best to stay mentally sharp.
“It’s crazy. It’s crazy,” the 22-year-old Tatis said. “I was even feeling like kind of weird at shortstop, like, ‘Damn, is something looking different or is it just me?’ It’s a thing when you’re far from the game, but here we are, healthy, thank God.”
Tatis, who had been out since May 11, helped the Padres win their sixth straight game and for the ninth time in 10 games.
Jake Cronenworth had an inside-the-park home run and Joe Musgrove struck out 11 in seven innings. Craig Stammen struck out the side in the eighth, and Mark Melancon finished the two-hitter with a perfect ninth for his major league-leading 15th save in as many chances.
Manager Jayce Tingler said what Tatis did Wednesday “is incredibly unique. I don’t know how to explain it. There’s not many that can kind of roll out and be able to do that.”
Tatis came up in the eighth needing a triple for the cycle and got his third extra-base hit of the game, an RBI double. He did a little dance after reaching the bag.
“It would have been great if we would have checked the cycle out of my things to do list but we were a little short and it’s definitely something I’m looking to the future for,” Tatis said.
The Padres were 7-1 without Tatis, who was placed on the injured list before a game at Colorado on May 11. Right fielder Wil Myers and first baseman Eric Hosmer were pulled from that game, Myers after he returned a positive test and Hosmer due to contact tracing.
Tatis and Hosmer were activated before Wednesday’s game and Myers is expected back this weekend. Jurickson Profar and Jorge Mateo, also placed in the contact tracing protocol on May 11, returned Monday night.
Tatis drove the first pitch he saw from Chi Chi González to right-center field with two outs in the fourth for his 10th homer.
Tatis, batting cleanup for the first time in his three-year big league career, singled leading off the second and then stole second, doing the splits after sliding feet-first. The Padres have encouraged Tatis to cut back on head-first slides after he experienced left shoulder discomfort during spring training and then suffered a partially dislocated left shoulder on a hard swing on April 5 that landed him on the 10-day injured list.
Tatis did the splits while keeping his foot on the bag.
“Oh wow. I still can do this,” he told himself.
Musgrove said Tatis doing the splits shows “that he’s ready to play. He’s just a freak athlete. He’s got a lot of style and a lot of flair. … Being on the same side as him I love it even more now. He’s a young player who plays with passion.”
Tatis said that when general manager A.J. Preller told him he had tested positive, “I’ll be honest, I just started laughing, how crazy it is. I’ve been behaving, following the rules, doing the protocol stuff and still got it. But nothing we can do, nothing we can control about it. And now we’re here in the field and glad we’re helping the team right now.”
Cronenworth hustled for an inside-the-park homer after his smash to right field went over Charlie Blackmon, caromed off the wall and rolled away from the fielder.
It was San Diego’s first inside-the-park home run since Everth Cabrera on June 8, 2012, at Milwaukee, and the first at Petco Park since Tony Gwynn Jr. on July 17, 2010, against Arizona.
Musgrove (4-4), who threw the first no-hitter for his hometown Padres on April 9, was brilliant in his ninth start. He allowed only two hits, including a booming double to center by Gonzalez after he retired the first eight Rockies batters, and didn’t walk a batter.
It was the third time Musgrove struck out at least 10 this season, including setting a career high with 13 against Milwaukee on April 19.
Gonzalez (2-2) allowed two runs and four hits in six innings, struck out six and walked one.
Rockies: RHP Germán Márquez ((2-4, 5.56 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday night in the opener of a three-game home series against Arizona.
Padres: RHP Chris Paddack (1-3, 4.45) is scheduled to start Friday night in the opener of a three-game home series against the Seattle Mariners, who have scheduled RHP Chris Flexen (4-1, 3.46).
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