The key storyline for the San Diego Padres was Fernando Tatis Jr. playing his first game since April 28th, as the 20-year-old hit the ground running with two walks and a run scored against the Nationals. Although Lucchesi gave up four runs on his birthday, he battled to get through five innings admirably. Finally, the bullpen got back on track by pitching four shutout frames to seal the win.
Things just always seem to be better with Fernando Tatis Jr. on the field for the Padres. That’s exactly how it felt on Thursday night as the young phenom was the spark plug for the San Diego offense. It was key to have him back in the lineup to get the bats going because the Padres found themselves in an early 4-0 deficit following a four-run first inning by the Nationals.
After giving up those four runs in the first inning, Joey Lucchesi worked around three walks to keep Washington off the board for the next four frames. On his 26th birthday, he showed calm and poise in pushing through what may have otherwise been a very ugly start.
Another key performer was Hunter Renfroe, who hit a two-run homer to deep left-center which cut the Nationals’ lead in half during the second inning. Later in the fifth inning, Manuel Margot and Tatis Jr. hit consecutive singles, followed by a walk by Wil Myers. Then Manny Machado hit into a fielder’s choice resulting in an error by Anthony Rendon at third base, allowing the tying runs to score. Following him was Franmil Reyes with the go-ahead sac-fly to put the Padres up, 5-4.
The Padres’ bullpen never looked back after coming on in relief of Lucchesi, retiring the final twelve batters in order while striking out six of those same hitters. It started with Matt Wisler, who struck out the side in the sixth inning, requiring only eleven pitches to do so. Then Trey Wingenter came on and struck out two of the three hitters he faced, to bounce back from his disappointing last outing versus the Phillies. Stammen did his job as well, throwing a clean inning that saw him retire the 3-4-5 hitters for the Nationals in order.
As per usual, Kirby Yates entered in a save situation with only a one-run lead and sealed the win for the Padres. He remains perfect in save opportunities, pacing all closers with 23 saves. His ERA is now an astounding 0.96 on the season, the third-lowest among all qualified relievers. Per Fangraphs WAR, Yates has been the most valuable reliever in all of baseball this season at 1.8. This is the best relief pitcher in baseball right now, pitching the ninth inning for San Diego.
It was a pretty impressive win considering the Nationals had won their last four games in a row, and have recently caught fire. The return of Tatis Jr. is huge for the team, as the Padres are now 17-12 in games he’s started. Each of his two batted balls was hit at 105.8 and 107.8 mph, showing that he is healthy. His speed was also on display as he ran the bases on Thursday night, leaving any doubt that his hamstring was still hurt.
When the team has cornerstones such as him and Machado in place, good things just seem bound to happen for them. The Padres flashed some of the immense potential they have tonight and managed to beat a very respectable Nationals team. That’s more than enough reason for optimism moving forward.
Tomorrow the Padres continue their four-game series with Washington as Nick Margevicius takes the ball and looks to get back on track versus Erick Fedde and the Nationals. First pitch is at 7:10 PM PDT.