Tatis Jr. finds rhythm at plate for Missions

Top Padres prospect homers, doubles twice in 20-run outburst

Each of Fernando Tatis Jr.'s last four hits have gone for extra bases -- a homer and three doubles. (Ozzy Jaime/MiLB.com)

By Nathan Brown / MiLB.com | May 2, 2018 1:35 AM

Fernando Tatis Jr. had been looking for an early-season spark after batting .177 with 34 strikeouts in his first 24 games.

Sometimes, April droughts bring May routs.

Gameday box score

In a game with plenty of star performances, Tatis shined brightest Tuesday, going 3-for-5 with a homer, two doubles and three runs scored as Double-A San Antonio totaled 17 hits in a 20-4 romp over Frisco at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

The top Padres prospect skipped a level late last year and played 16 games with San Antonio before his first full professional season was complete. There, he batted .255 with two extra-base hits and 17 strikeouts in 14 games. But his hitting coach, Raul Padron, said there's a silver lining in the fact Tatis didn't immediately take off after the promotion.

"It's a hard level. He's a young kid and if you play good here, you can play good in the Majors," Padron said. "It's good for him to know he doesn't have everything figured out. But I think he's going to come back big after this game tonight. His confidence is getting there."

Tatis set the tone Tuesday, knocking a leadoff double on a line drive to center field in the first inning. After striking out in the third, he drilled a solo shot -- his fourth of the season -- off reliever Ricardo Rodriguez in the fifth.

Video: San Antonio's Tatis Jr. knocks solo shot

San Antonio took an 8-3 advantage into the eighth before sending 16 batters to the plate and scoring 10 runs. Tatis delivered an RBI double as four of the Missions' first five batters came around to score. Frisco recorded a second out two batters after Josh Naylor's two-run homer made it 12-4, but San Antonio added six runs before No. 28 prospect Austin Allen popped to third to end the carnage.

While slumping, Tatis put on a confident face on social media, and Padron said he could tell that the 19-year-old held that same faith in practice and in games. But that sometimes comes with a price.

"When you have a baseball junkie like that with that mindset, so confident in himself, it's really good," Padron said. "But baseball is a game of failure."

The teacher and student have been working lately on making Tatis more selective at the plate. Sometimes the worst thing a slumping hitter can do is swing more, the hitting coach said.

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"I'm big on attacking the fastball first and being aggressive early, but with that you'll start to recognize other pitches. And when you can find the breaking ball and don't swing at it, you'll find your pitch," Padron added. "His biggest thing going forward is being super-selective at the plate. That will be huge for him. After a slow start, you have to be super-selective, and he'll learn from that and can take that with him his whole career."

Several other Missions found their groove Tuesday, to Padron's delight. Four players homered, including Naylor, Ty France and Michael Gettys. Gettys and Peter Van Gansen joined Tatis with three hits apiece, while Rod Boykin went 4-for-6 with a pair of triples and a career-high six RBIs.

Video: Missions' Boykin hits a triple to spark 10-run frame

For Boykin, who had been hitting .211, the 20-4 win was an important springboard, Padron said.

"Rod struggled at the beginning of the season, too, and he started slow tonight with two strikeouts, but he's competitive," the coach said. "That guy needed those. He has put plenty of time in so far this spring and has been putting too much pressure on himself lately. But this game should take him over the hump and keep him going."

Nathan Brown is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @NathanBrownNYC. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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