Vlad Jr.'s 20th HR leads Blue Jays brigade

June 13th, 2021

BOSTON -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. just keeps launching balls over the Green Monster, with Saturday afternoon’s blast making him baseball’s first hitter to 20 home runs this season.

This one came on the first pitch Guerrero saw in the 7-2 win over the Red Sox, a fastball on the inside half from Boston starter Nick Pivetta, and it was almost a replay of his home run from Friday night. This one measured 439 feet, clearing the deepest edge of the Monster in left-center. It almost looks routine for Guerrero at this point, as he puts himself in position to take a run at the Triple Crown and the American League MVP Award.

On Friday, Guerrero pulled his hands in on a fine pitch by Hirokazu Sawamura and launched a home run off the tall billboards that stand above and beyond the Green Monster, which were all that stopped it from leaving Fenway Park entirely. Wth a double and a single off the wall, it was also Guerrero’s 10th three-hit game of the season, the most in baseball.

“If you’re not throwing him strikes, he’ll take the walk,” manager Charlie Montoyo highlighted as the key to Guerrero’s success. “And credit to Teoscar Hernández, too. If you don’t pitch to Vladdy, then you have to pitch to Teoscar. That’s huge, to have somebody behind you that swings the bat well and is having a good year. That’s key. It’s just so impressive for a young guy. ‘You’re not throwing me strikes? OK. I’ll take the walk.’"

Entering play on Saturday, Guerrero led MLB in home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and total bases. His 3.7 WAR is also tied for the best in baseball with the great Jacob deGrom, and it leads all hitters. Just as everyone else is running out of ways to describe Guerrero’s incredible start, opponents are, too.

“He’s hitting the ball like [it’s] a balloon,” said Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez. “He looks good at the plate, swinging at strikes. What can we do? Turn the page and keep trying to get him out."

At 22 years and 88 days old, Guerrero became the fifth-youngest player with 20 or more homers in his first 62 games of a season. The only players to reach 20 faster:

• Mel Ott, 1929: 20 years, 117 days
• Eddie Mathews, 1953: 21 years, 151 days
• Cody Bellinger, 2017: 21 years, 352 days
• Yordan Alvarez, 2019: 22 years, 63 days 

Guerrero also became the third-youngest player in MLB history to be first in the Majors to 20 homers in a season. Only Ott (20 years, 112 days in 1929) and Mathews (21 years, 246 days in 1953) were younger, per Elias.

This wasn’t just the Vladdy Show, though. The Blue Jays piled on with another power outburst in the fifth inning when Cavan Biggio, Marcus Semien and Bo Bichette all sent home runs of their own over the Green Monster. In the ninth, Reese McGuire went deep for his first homer of the season. One night after clanking hit after hit off the facing of that same wall, the Blue Jays finally adjusted their aim.

“That’s the heart this team has,” Montoyo said, “from the coaching staff all the way down to the players. OK, we had a tough one. We had a lot of tough ones. When the bullpen struggles, they’re tough losses because you have leads, but this team keeps bouncing back.”

Biggio’s first home run since May 8 and Semien’s 14th of the season were great signs for this offense, but Bichette’s was the one you’ll remember from that inning. Bichette tends to swing out of his shoes at times, but when he connects and puts the ball in the air, his power can be special.

On a curveball from Pivetta that caught entirely too much of the plate, Bichette absolutely unloaded, torquing his body through his swing to end with his belt buckle facing the third-base dugout. With an exit velocity of 111.1 mph, Bichette’s blast carried a whopping 468 feet. That’s the deepest of Bichette’s career by a good margin, surpassing a 441-footer he hit back in 2019.

It was Steven Matz who allowed the bats to shine on Saturday, giving the Blue Jays 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts. Following Friday’s bullpen meltdown, a combination of Anthony Castro, Tim Mayza and Rafael Dolis bridged the gap to Jordan Romano, who was unavailable Friday with some forearm tightness, but the right-hander looked sharp locking down the win.