Apr 25, 2021
Alden GonzalezESPN Staff Writer
- Joined ESPN in 2016 to cover the Los Angeles Rams
- Previously covered the Angels for MLB.com
On his way to second base on his first home run Saturday night, San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. turned toward his dugout and covered one of his eyes, teasing Los Angeles Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer for occasionally pitching with one eye closed. After crossing home plate on his second home run, Tatis imitated a strut popularized by UFC star Conor McGregor — the one Bauer often deploys after dominant half-innings.
After the game, which the Dodgers won 5-4 at Dodger Stadium, Bauer made it a point to speak out in support of Tatis’ actions.
“I like it,” Bauer said. “I think that pitchers who have that done to them and react by throwing at people, or getting upset and hitting people or whatever — I think it’s pretty soft. If you give up a homer, the guy should celebrate it. It’s hard to hit in the big leagues.
“So, I’m all for it. And I think it’s important that the game moves in that direction, and we stop throwing at people because they celebrated having some success on the field.”
Tatis’ two homers — on a chest-high cutter to lead off the game and on another cutter that tailed away from the strike zone in the sixth — came one night after he homered twice on the 22-year anniversary of his father belting two grand slams in the same inning from Dodger Stadium.
His celebrations were a response to Bauer noticeably pitching with one eye closed when he faced the Padres during spring training, but also the way Bauer emphatically pounded his chest when he struck out Tatis to punctuate his outing in his first regular-season start against the Padres last weekend.
“Payback time,” said Tatis, the first player with back-to-back, two-homer games against Cy Young Award winners, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Tatis homered twice off Clayton Kershaw on Friday night.
“It’s just fun,” Tatis added. “When you know you’re facing a guy like that — he’s doing his stuff, he’s having fun on the mound, and when you get him you get him, and you celebrate, too. He’s a hard guy to deal with.”
Bauer said he didn’t see Tatis cup his right hand over his right eye as he rounded the bases in the first inning, but he noticed players in the Padres’ dugout doing it when Tatis homered off him again later.
In the fourth, Bauer struck out Eric Hosmer with a curveball and displayed his signature celebration of sheathing an imaginary sword — a “sword” is a popular term for the awkward half-swing hitters produce when fooled badly on pitches. When Hosmer lined a ball back up the middle that nearly struck Bauer two innings later, he reached first base and did the sword celebration back at him.
“That’s what it is to be a competitor,” Bauer said. “I’m gonna go at you. I’m gonna get you sometimes, and you’re gonna get me sometimes. We can have fun, we can celebrate it while we’re still competing at the highest level. I just thought that was important to note tonight.”
Before Tatis’ big night, Bauer’s archnemesis on the Padres was Manny Machado, who entered batting .632/.696/1.368 in 23 plate appearances against him. Machado has especially crushed Bauer’s fastball in recent years, so Bauer instead attacked him exclusively with his slider. Bauer threw 13 consecutive sliders in three at-bats against Machado, producing a groundout and two strikeouts.
On the last one, Machado smiled and nodded his head toward the mound as he walked to the dugout. Asked if the plan was to simply throw sliders until Machado proved he could hit them, Bauer chuckled and said: “Yeah, basically.”
The Padres and Dodgers will play their seventh game against one another in a stretch of 10 days on Sunday night. The two teams have split the first six meetings, with nine ties and four lead changes throughout.
They have been separated by two runs or less in 53 of the 57 innings.
“It’s been great baseball all the way around,” Tatis said. “I feel like we’ve been playing great games, and we’re just taking the best out of each other.”