A sacrifice fly is hardly an uncommon occurrence in baseball, as fleet-footed runners make their way from third base to home plate on fly balls to the outfield often enough that nobody bats an eye when it happens.
But scoring on a sacrifice to the outfield is one thing.
Scoring from third on a routine popup that barely clears the infield dirt? That’s the stuff that highlight reels are made of.
Enter San Diego Padres rookie phenom Fernando Tatis Jr., who on Sunday scored from third on a pop fly.
Tatis was originally called out on the play, but replay review confirmed what the TV broadcast captured: The initial effort to tag Tatis out missed his hand and did not contact the rest of his body until after he touched the plate to score a run.
Tatis took advantage of the element of surprise in a big way.
At the beginning of the clip, you can see Pirates infielder Kevin Newman caught completely unaware as he fielded the popup and thought, sensibly, that the play was likely over.
That moment of hesitation allowed Tatis to get a good jump.
From there, it was just a dead sprint down the baseline, a near-perfect slide and an errant throw that was a few feet offline and forced the catcher to reach back — and with a little help from modern technology, San Diego had a 1-0 lead.
Tatis went 2-for-4, drew two walks, drove in two runs and scored three of his own, though the Pirates still beat the Padres 11-10 in 11 innings.
Tatis Jr. is the heir to a highlight-worthy baseball legacy.
His father, Fernando Tatis Sr., became the only player in major league history to hit two grand slams in the same inning back in 1999.
And while scoring on a sacrifice fly hardly equals driving in eight runs with two swings of the bat in the same inning, it’s still a sign there’s some magic in that Tatis name.
Tatis Jr. is having a stellar rookie season so far for San Diego, the kind of campaign that should have him in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.
Overall, Tatis is hitting .323 with an on-base percentage of .387, a slugging percentage of .571 powered by eight homers in 161 at-bats, a .958 OPS and 2.3 wins above replacement.
These are not only Rookie of the Year numbers, but they arguably warrant All-Star Game consideration, especially considering he’s s shortstop.
Not since the likes of Alex Rodriguez has a 20-year-old shortstop been so hotly touted.
Indeed, A-Rod’s breakout season came in 1996, his age-20 campaign, when he was named an All-Star and won his first and only American League batting title.
Fans in San Diego are already in love, with one comparing Tatis’ style of play to that of a certain Charlie Hustle from baseball history.
he is just so good. he sure looks to be a padre for some time! he hustles as much as Pete Rose
— Purple Door 73 (@PurpleDoor73) June 23, 2019
He is a pitchers worst nightmare on the base paths and he seems to always be on them!
— coreo (@Corey0Brien) June 23, 2019
The 38-40 Padres have underachieved when you recall the expectations that came with their big offseason free agent signing of Manny Machado.
But with a rookie like Tatis, brighter days may not be long off for baseball fans in San Diego.
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