It would have seemed almost impossible for something regarding the San Diego Padres to upstage Juan Soto's return to Washington this weekend.
However, that happened on Friday with the news that shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., one of the sport's fastest rising young stars the past few years, was handed an 80-game suspension by Major League Baseball following a positive test for a banned substance.
That shocking announcement took some of the attention off Soto and Josh Bell, who were traded last week to the Padres from the Nationals but returned to play in San Diego's 10-5 win on Friday. They might be able to take the spotlight back when the teams meet again Saturday night in Washington.
"This is a blow for us," San Diego manager Bob Melvin said. "We'll have to move on. I'm glad we made the moves we did at the deadline. We feel like we have a really good team still. Sometimes you have to deal with some adversity as a team."
Tatis was given the ban for testing positive for the performance-enhancing substance Clostebol. The suspension will cause him to miss the remaining games in 2022, any postgame games the Padres play and approximately the first month of the 2023 season.
The 23-year-old star was expected back soon from a broken left wrist sustained in a motorcycle accident in the offseason, and he was to join forces with the recent acquisitions to form a formidable lineup.
Padres general manager AJ Preller is traveling with the team. He sounded more frustrated than disappointed in the development regarding Tatis.
"I'm sure he's very disappointed," Preller said. "But at the end of the day, it's one thing to say it. You have to start by showing it with your actions."
The good thing for San Diego, it appears, is that they added Soto, Bell and Brandon Drury at the trade deadline via trades. Drury went 3-for-4 with a home run in San Diego's Friday night victory.
"Look at our lineup. We still have a really good lineup," Melvin said. "We liked our team before. We're comfortable with the team we have."
The Nationals were struggling with Soto and Bell in the lineup. Now they've lost eight of their past nine games.
"We're going to get better," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "It's going to take some time, but we're going to get better. So hang in there. I know it stinks."
Right-hander Yu Darvish (10-5, 3.28 ERA) will go to the mound Saturday night for San Diego.
Darvish took his first loss in more than a month in his latest outing, but he gave up only two runs in six innings to the Los Angeles Dodgers in that Sunday start. He has logged at least six innings in 14 consecutive appearances.
Darvish is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in two previous appearances against the Nationals. He gave up eight hits and six runs in three innings last year at home against Washington, allowing a home run by Trea Turner (now with the Los Angeles Dodgers), two singles by Soto and an RBI double by Bell. So a chunk of those players applying damage against him on that day are now teammates.
The Nationals will start right-hander Anibal Sanchez (0-5, 7.56) on Saturday. In his five outings this season -- all losses -- he has lasted at least four innings each time but hasn't completed six in any of them.
Sanchez has faced the Padres only six times in his career, producing a 1-2 record and a 2.23 ERA.
Washington used six pitchers in the series opener Friday, though none of the relievers logged more than 1 1/3 innings. Veteran left-hander Jake McGee made his debut with the team by pitching a scoreless inning.
--Field Level Media