BOSTON -- The Blue Jays took batting practice for just under three hours on Sunday at Fenway Park, and the Red Sox were pitching.
Teoscar Hernández led an offensive avalanche in the 18-4 win over the Red Sox, as the Blue Jays launched eight home runs on 20 hits. Toronto is on the doorstep of being the first team in baseball to reach 100 home runs, now with 99, and it only widened its lead as the best-slugging team in the game. This was, in every way, the Blue Jays at their best.
The eight home runs were tied for the second-most in Blue Jays history, behind only the 10 hit back in 1987 against the Orioles. This was also the most home runs a visiting team has ever hit at Fenway Park, and this stadium wasn’t exactly built yesterday. No team has ever homered eight times against the Red Sox, anywhere.
Hernández has moved quietly in 2021. After a slow start, he tested positive for COVID-19 and missed three weeks, wiping out most of his April. Even as he surged in May, hitting .343 with a .959 OPS, it didn’t earn much attention. Besides, Marcus Semien was cruising to a Player of the Month Award and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was busy lighting the league on fire.
“For me, it’s one of the best things that can happen to me right now,” Hernández said. “I am going to have more games like the one I had today with six RBIs, because they don’t want to pitch to Vladdy. He’s more than on fire right now. I think they’d rather pitch to me, not to Vladdy. I’m going to get more guys on base and that’s better for me.”
Just a day ago, manager Charlie Montoyo highlighted the value of having Hernández behind Guerrero, providing protection, but the benefit goes both ways.
“It’s almost like Shohei Ohtani having Mike Trout behind him. You don’t want to walk Ohtani, because then you have Trout. Now, you don’t want to walk Vladdy, because you have Teoscar hot, having a good year. Not just this year, but he’s having success the last 100 games. This isn’t new.”
Toronto struck Boston early, beginning with Hernández’s first three run-shot, which snuck over the lip of the Monster to open the scoring. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. followed right in stride, sending a ball out onto Lansdowne Street. Semien got in on the action, too, belting his 15th of the season before Hernández stepped to the plate again in the fourth and launched a 440-foot shot over the deepest part of the Monster.
The Blue Jays shoveled salt into the wound from there, including Bo Bichette’s second home run in as many days, another three-run shot that left Fenway Park altogether, and another solo job from Cavan Biggio. Somehow, Guerrero didn’t join the home run parade until the seventh inning, sending another rocket over the wall in right-center. It was an afterthought in a game already well out of hand, but that was Guerrero’s 21st of the season, extending his league lead on Ronald Acuña Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr.
Even Rowdy Tellez got in on the action late, launching a much-needed home run off second baseman Christian Arroyo, who was moonlighting as a pitcher. This was more batting practice than baseball game for the Blue Jays, but what the club saw from Hernández matters.
This is already a lineup topped by Semien, who’s played brilliantly since a quiet April, and Guerrero, who is suddenly the most dominant hitter in the sport. Soon enough, the Blue Jays will add George Springer to the top of this lineup, too. That’s already a very good group, but if Hernández is hitting like he did in his breakout 2020 season, then it’s just plain elite. Toronto has its problems -- the bullpen a glaring one right now -- but with a lineup like that, it won’t matter most nights.
“It’s unbelievable. I hope it can be like this every day,” Hernández said, “so we can have fun and laugh the whole game. Our team can go out there and pitch good for us. I know it’s different when our pitchers have that lead. They pitch with more confidence and they can be more effective. It’s fun when you have a game like this.”
Robbie Ray was definitely the beneficiary of an early cushion. He cruised once again, giving the Blue Jays six innings of three-run ball while striking out 10, allowing Montoyo to get Trent Thornton stretched back out a bit with two innings in relief. The staff held the Red Sox to just six hits, and when your offense gives you eight home runs, that’s good enough.