Behind Jansen, Vlad Jr., Toronto's bats finally erupt

May 25th, 2022

ST. LOUIS -- For perhaps just an extra second or two -- just enough time to feel the weight fall off his shoulders -- Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. stood at home plate at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, watching a 438-foot home run soar through the St. Louis night and land several rows behind the Blue Jays' bullpen in left field.

Manager Charlie Montoyo repeated with conviction before both games of this series that Toronto's offense would arrive as expected. With the Blue Jays already up big at the time, Vladdy’s blast was an exclamation that he was right and a knockout blow as the Blue Jays cruised to an 8-1 win.

“Before he did that, he was talking in the dugout that for the first time he feels locked in, like he can see the ball right,” Montoyo said. “I’m not saying that’s why he hit that [one] that he hit, but that was good to hear.”

“If I tell you that I didn’t enjoy it, I would be lying to you guys,” Guerrero said through team Spanish translator Hector Lebron. “When you hit a homer, you’re going to enjoy it. But also, I feel very good that I’m getting there now. My contact is there, so I’m feeling good.”

Danny Jansen’s second home run of the night traveled a mere 427 feet by comparison, landing in almost the same spot. Jansen’s first -- a high drive off the left-field foul pole -- inflated Toronto's lead to four runs, from which it would not look back.

The multihomer game was the third of Jansen’s career and his first since Sept. 23, 2020, against the Yankees. He tied a career high with four RBIs.

“Really just trying to maximize what I'm really good at,” Jansen said of his pull power. “I feel like I'm good at pulling the ball. ... I think that finally, it took me a couple of years with struggling and stuff and kind of figuring out who I am. I'm still learning about it, but I wouldn't change the road at all.”

Guerrero’s home run was his first in 15 games and just his second of the month. His two home runs in May would be his fewest in any full month of his career.

“I’ve been working very hard all these days,” Guerrero said. “I feel like the more I’ve worked, the better I’ve been feeling. Every day, more comfortable.”

With the win, the Blue Jays equaled their second-best offensive output of the season. Toronto also scored eight runs in the first game of its May 7 doubleheader in Cleveland, and put up a season-best 10 on Opening Day against the Rangers.

“It's obviously a good team over there, so you want to keep your head down and keep going,” Jansen said. “It’s a little bit of a breathing room, but of course you’ve got to keep going."

Along with Guerrero, Matt Chapman, Alejandro Kirk and George Springer all reached base three times.

Kevin Gausman turned in another sparkling start for Toronto. Despite issuing back-to-back walks to Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado in the first inning -- just Gausman’s fourth and fifth walks of the season -- he stymied St. Louis through six scoreless innings, striking out eight and not allowing a runner to reach third base.

“It was weird a little bit,” Gausman admitted of his uncharacteristic first inning, “but just tried to get back in the zone.

“But to be honest, both those hitters are really good hitters. If I'm going to walk two guys to start the game, I don't mind those two guys being it. So, you know, it worked out in my favor.”

As the Blue Jays waited for their offense to come through with a big hit, they leaned on their patience. Seven of the first nine Toronto hitters worked ahead in the count against Cardinals starter Jordan Hicks, and Springer would come around to score after drawing a leadoff walk. That gave the Blue Jays a lead they would not relinquish.

Hicks would eventually walk five before exiting one batter after Jansen’s fourth-inning blast. The Blue Jays failed to have at least one batter reach base in only the third and ninth innings, and they sent at least five men to the plate six times.

Toronto’s 13 walks in the series were the most the club has drawn in a two-game set since Sept. 7-9, 1998, when it drew 16 at home against Cleveland.

“We have our plan,” Guerrero said. “Everybody stayed calm. A pitcher like that, throws 100 or 101 [mph], you really have to be patient to have good at-bats. And I think that’s what we did collectively.”