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For 1st time at home, Vlad Jr. goes north of wall

Phenom does it with glove too, but Blue Jays fall short in slugfest
@baseballexis
May 23, 2019

TORONTO -- Wednesday just wasn’t the Blue Jays’ night. Despite a highlight-reel performance from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. that included his first home run at home, comebacks in the ninth and 12th innings, and an encouraging outing from Aaron Sanchez, Toronto couldn’t muster enough offence to stave off the Red Sox

TORONTO -- Wednesday just wasn’t the Blue Jays’ night.

Despite a highlight-reel performance from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. that included his first home run at home, comebacks in the ninth and 12th innings, and an encouraging outing from Aaron Sanchez, Toronto couldn’t muster enough offence to stave off the Red Sox and fell 6-5 in 13 innings at Rogers Centre.

“That was a great game that we had,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “We proved that we can play with the champions over there and we came back. It was an outstanding game. … I’m proud of my guys for the game we played today against one of the best teams in baseball.”

Box score

Guerrero gave the people what they wanted early, when the rookie phenom launched a solo shot 424 feet to straightaway centre field in his second at-bat of the night, flying off the bat at 109.7 mph, the second-hardest-hit ball of the game. His fifth homer of the season came in his 21st Major League game -- 10th at Rogers Centre -- in front of a crowd of 18,285 people.

To follow it up, Guerrero singled in his third at-bat. He added a diving catch on a bunt in the sixth inning, and a nice running pickup and strong throw across the diamond in the 11th.

“He’s fun to watch,” Montoyo said. “Because he can do stuff that not all the guys can do. For me, every time he comes to the plate he’s got a chance to do that, so it’s fun to watch. … And he’s only 20. He’s only going to get better.”

Noticeably absent from the Blue Jays lineup on Monday to open the homestand, the same day Guerrero was named American League Player of the Week for what he did over his previous six games -- going 7-for-21 with four home runs, five runs scored, three walks and a .905 slugging percentage on the road -- he returned to form as quickly as he returned to the lineup.

In Tuesday’s 10-3 win over the Red Sox, the 20-year-old infielder recorded a pair of singles and scored twice, before adding his third and fourth hits of the series on Wednesday. Heading into Wednesday’s matchup, Guerrero had batted .375 (12-for-32) over his last nine contests. The bench took a collective breath as baseball’s No. 1 prospect rolled his ankle out of the box in the sixth inning, but the training staff taped it up and he remained in the game.

Sanchez offered the Blue Jays the length they were hoping for out of him -- after a blister forced an early exit in his last outing -- finishing six innings, allowing two runs on four hits with two walks, two hit batsmen and five strikeouts.

“I try to go out there and just compete and try not to worry about it,” Sanchez said of his ongoing finger issues. “Obviously, there are some pitches that it doesn’t hurt or burn more on, but I can lose my hand and I’m going to go out there and give everything I’ve got until that ball is taken from me. That’s just the type of competitor I am, and in between [starts], I’ll figure it out.”

The Red Sox did all their damage against Sanchez in a third inning that could have spiraled even further, but the 26-year-old right-hander reined it in and retired 10 of the final 12 batters he faced. Despite the quality start from Sanchez, however, Toronto still had to go to the bullpen for 21 outs in the extra-inning affair.

“He was great,” Montoyo said. “He had the tough inning when he threw 30-something pitches, but then he minimized the damage in that inning, and then after that he was very good. He gave us six big innings, which was huge because we didn’t have any more bullpen there at the end. He was really good, and his finger’s doing good, so that’s good news.”

Added Sanchez: “To come out of there, scratched with only two, you know you have to keep your team in the game. Games like that happen, where you keep them close and you’re within striking distance, and we didn’t come out on top, but it was a well-fought game.”

A two-out, pinch-hit RBI single in the ninth from Danny Jansen sent the game into extras, and a game-tying homer in the 12th from Rowdy Tellez -- his third in two nights -- extended it further. Though the game didn’t go the Blue Jays’ way, the team was encouraged by the fight it put up.

“That’s just kind of been the name of our [game] right,” Jansen said. “We’ve just been battling the whole season until the last out. A lot of big hits, just kept going, kept ping-ponging, and that’s baseball.”

Alexis Brudnicki is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.