'You got me': Vlad sends gift to position player who K'd him

May 25th, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG -- For the rest of his life, can tell a story about the time he struck out Now, he also has material proof of it.

Appreciating the moment from both sides, Guerrero sent a signed baseball to the Rays’ clubhouse for Raley after the Blue Jays’ 20-1 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. Underneath his signature, Guerrero wrote: “You got me.”

The full version of the story might not be as fun, but Raley can leave some parts out. He can forget to mention the seven runs on eight hits, the 30.38 ERA and the time, just an inning later, that Guerrero strolled back in with a big smile and no batting gloves and launched a grand slam to put the Blue Jays up by 14.

Toronto’s win at Tropicana Field was already an 11-1 blowout when Raley, who started the game at first base, took the mound in the eighth. It rustled up a murmur of excitement from the Rays fans who stuck around, but Raley was feeling something different.

“Scared,” Raley said. “Yeah, it's not my favorite place to be. I've told them before that I got rocked in high school, so I can't imagine what these guys would actually do to me if I tried to pitch. So, just try to lob it over the plate and save our bullpen.”

That’s exactly what he did in the eighth, allowing just one run and getting Guerrero to swing through a 50 mph curveball. It was the type of hack we’ve all seen -- or taken -- in a slow-pitch softball game. Raley strolled off the mound, grinning, to some unexpected applause.

“I was just smiling because I struck out Vlad, honestly,” Raley said. “That's something I can honestly say I never thought I would do. Yeah. At least I have one strikeout in the books and we move on.”

Then, Vladdy came back with the bases loaded with two outs in the top of the ninth.

Striking out against a position player once earns you a friendly teasing in the dugout. Twice, and the Blue Jays’ players might have forced Guerrero to take batting practice with a beach ball.

“We were all laughing,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “It’s hard to do against a guy throwing 40-whatever. You kind of take it for what it’s worth. The fact that he was laughing, I loved it, and we were all kind of laughing. You don’t get Vladdy twice with a position player. I think he’s going to get you.”

Guerrero’s 424-foot blast won’t exactly go on his career highlight reel, but still, he needed it. The gifted slugger hadn’t homered since May 4, and he has been forcing the issue at the plate lately, trying to be the hero who turns it all around for the Blue Jays after a disastrous week. As cruel as it might have been for Raley, it seemed only fitting that Guerrero homered in a 20-run outburst.

Despite the souvenir that will look good on his shelf long after his playing days are done, Raley said he hoped that this is the end of his pitching career. It’s understandable. When your starting first baseman has to take the mound for two innings later in the game, things typically aren’t going well.

“Everyone, you might think it's fun to be out there. But it's scary at the same time,” Raley said. “I'm not a pitcher. I can leave the ball over the plate, and those guys hit the ball really hard and it can get back to the pitcher's mound real quick. So I don't envy pitchers in general, and I don't envy myself being out there. But I'll do whatever the team needs me to do and keep us healthy and fresh for tomorrow to continue to win games.”

By Wednesday, the jubilation will have worn off for the Blue Jays and the sting will have worn off for the Rays. Guerrero gets to keep the home run, though, and Raley gets to keep the story of a strikeout.