SAN DIEGO—Fernando Tatis Jr. swinging on 3-0 was more than just a turning point in the debate about baseball’s unwritten rules.
As it turns out, it was the first step in putting the Padres on the road to history.
Eric Hosmer hit a grand slam Thursday night as the Padres became the first team to hit a grand slam in four consecutive games, and San Diego wrapped up a four-game sweep of the Rangers with an 8-7 win in 10 innings.
Tatis got it started with grand slam on Monday, Wil Myers followed with a grand slam Tuesday and Manny Machado hit a walkoff grand slam Wednesday night to set the stage for Hosmer, whose bases-loaded drive off Kyle Gibson in the fifth inning cleared the right-field wall by mere inches to give the Padres the new major league record.
“I think the whole grand slam thing just shows how good this team is,” Hosmer said. “It’s somebody different every night. Most nights it’s Fernando, but we find a way to do it, and that’s what great teams do.”
Ah yes, Tatis. The 21-year-old wunderkind’s grand slam that started it all sparked a controversy about the unwritten rules of baseball after he swung on a 3-0 pitch with the Padres up seven runs.
Rangers pitcher Ian Gibaut responded by throwing behind the next hitter, Machado, an act that earned him a three-game suspension (later reduced to two). Manager Chris Woodward expressed his displeasure with Tatis after the game, saying “I didn’t like it personally. You’re up by seven in the 8th inning, it’s typically not a good time 3-0. It’s kind of the way we were all raised in the game. But … the norms are being challenged.”
Padres manager Jayce Tingler described it as a “learning opportunity” for his young star, though he later clarified he was referring to Tatis’ missing a take sign rather than the home run itself.
While social media and the baseball world debated the merits of such unwritten rules, the Padres just kept crushing.
Myers’ slam proved the difference in a Padres 6-4 win on Tuesday, Machado’s slam gave the Padres a dramatic walkoff victory Wednesday and Hosmer’s slam turned a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead. On the strength of those slams, the Padres have a four-game win streak that has propelled them into second place in the National League West.
“They’re all doing a good job of missing the take sign,” Tingler said, jokingly.
It wasn’t lost on anyone that all four grand slams came against the Rangers, who so publicly expressed their displeasure with the first one.
“At that point in time their team was pretty upset and my job as one of the leaders on this team is to protect (Tatis) at all times,” Hosmer said. “If I hear some chirping going on from their side, I’m certainly trying to tell those guys he’s not trying to disrespect the game. He’s not trying to disrespect their dugout. The game nowadays is a lot different than it was before I came up. That’s what people really need to understand.”
“I have a 21-year-old superstar on the bench and he’s feeling terrible because he feels like he got one of his teammates thrown at, so I’m certainly not going to let him feel that way. I want him to enjoy that night and not be upset, so we had a great talk about it and we all learned from that situation.
“It motivated us, it really did. I don’t know if that’s the reason we got the sweep, but you need sparks like that over the course of the season.”
The Padres still needed some late heroics to pull out the win and ensure their record-setting night wouldn’t be spoiled by a loss. Ty France and Austin Hedges hit back-to-back homers in the bottom of the eighth to put the Padres ahead 7-6 and, after Emilio Pagan served up a tying home run to Rangers outfielder Nick Solak in the ninth, Jake Cronenworth delivered a run-scoring single in the 10th to give the Padres their second straight walkoff victory.
It was a fitting bookend to a wild, emotional series—one that began with controversy, and ended with history.
“The guys were all aware,” Tingler said. “They were flashing the four. They were ultra-aware.
“It’s just credit to the energy, the focus, the preparation the work they’ve done. We continue to talk about getting on base. They’ve done that, and it’s nice to see them cash it in.”