EL PASO — The Chihuahuas defeated the Albuquerque Isotopes 8-5 on a beautiful April night at Southwest University Park, but that’s not what people will remember.
They will remember another dominant night Fernando Tatis, Jr. gave them. In his first two at-bats, Tatis got two strikes in five pitches. He deposited the first over the left field wall and the second into the pavilion in right-center. In three games at Southwest University Park, Tatis is 12-15, including a stretch of eight strait hits, and has five home runs.
“Special,” said Phillip Wellman, the El Paso manager said, when asked for the umpteenth time about a player he first managed as an 18-year-old at Double-A San Antonio.
“I think the entire clubhouse realizes that no one can do what he is doing. Even when he doesn’t hit the ball hard, he gets on base and drives in a run. This is the type of stuff we will talk about for a long time.”
After Tatis erased a 1-0 deficit leading off the bottom of the first, the Chihuahuas offense kept rolling, getting RBI singles from Brett Sullivan and Matthew Batten before an RBI fielder’s choice from Preston Tucker put them up 4-1.
Working with the lead, Julio Teheran, 32, got through five innings, allowing four runs while striking out six. The 11-year major league veteran, who made two All-star appearances for the Braves in 2014 and 2016, topped out at 91 mph with his fastball, but kept Isotopes hitters off-balance mixing in five different pitches.
“The last time I had him was 13 years ago when he was my starting pitcher with the Mississippi Braves,” said Wellman. “He loves to compete, and he and I have a tremendous rapport, and I appreciate everything he has accomplished because I felt like I was a part of his journey, but he wasn’t happy coming out of that game after five innings.
“But he also had thrown 90 pitches, and I told him that I was not going to hurt anybody because I got to sleep at night. He’s good, and the stuff is there; he needs an opportunity. He might not have the electric stuff he did when he was younger, but he moves the ball all over the zone. He’s a pitcher.”
El Paso added a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth as Sullivan lofted a sacrifice fly to plate Tim Lopes after a leadoff triple and Tucker doubled and scored. Sullivan capped off a 3-for-4 night two innings later when he led off with a single and came around to score on Tatis’s infield hit.
“With guys like Brett, opportunities are going to present themselves. He had three hits tonight and has thrown out a couple of runners in the past few games. I have a feeling he will get his chance soon enough.”
Given extra breathing room, the bullpen locked down the win, allowing just one run over four innings. The night’s standout performance came from reliever Drew Carlton, who the Padres signed as a minor league free agent from the Detroit Tigers organization.
He is off to a strong start with a 1.13 ERA in eight innings, with eight strikeouts against three walks and five hits.
“He’s around the low 90s, but he sinks it, changes speeds, and pounds the zone,” said Wellman.
Notes: The Chihuahuas benefitted at the box office from Tatis’s brief sojourn in El Paso with 9,639 fans in a standing-room-only crowd. … Adam Engel had his first rehab start and was 1-4 with a double. The Padres signed Engel in the offseason to a one-year contract for major league outfield depth. … Michel Baez needed only five pitches to breeze through the eighth inning. The three fastballs he tossed registered at 94, 94, and 93 mph. … El Paso can split the series on Sunday with a win. Tatis is expected to be in the lineup again.