Vlad, with bloodied hand, KOs Yanks in 3-HR stunner

April 14th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Ten minutes after Vladimir Guerrero Jr. walked off the field with a blood-soaked towel wrapped around his newly redesigned right ring finger, he hit his second home run of the night. And he wasn’t done there.

Guerrero completed the hat trick in the top of the eighth, launching his longest and loudest of the night into the left-field bleachers of Yankee Stadium. On a night when the Blue Jays needed it, Guerrero put the team on his back and bullied the Yankees, bloodied hand and all.

“I didn’t want to come out of the game,” Guerrero said following the 6-4 win. “I already had in my mind that I wasn’t going to come out of the game, no matter what. I told Charlie, 'I’m not coming out of the game.'”

This was the second three-homer game of Guerrero’s career -- the first featured a pair against Max Scherzer (April 27, 2021) and this one two off Gerrit Cole. This made Guerrero, 23, the second-youngest player in AL/NL history to homer three times on two occasions, trailing only Boog Powell, who was 22.

He also added a hard-hit double to the right-field corner against Cole, who could only tip his cap as Guerrero raced out of the box and flipped his helmet off as he rounded first, braids bouncing behind him and a wide grin across his face. Guerrero’s career-best performance was one thing, but doing it against the highest-paid pitcher on the planet makes it truly special.

"I mean, did you see the night?” Cole said. “If you had a cap, you'd tip it too. I mean, it got better after that, too. My goodness."

It looked like Guerrero’s day would end 1-for-1 with a homer and an IL stint after he was injured in the bottom of the second inning when Aaron Hicks stepped on his hand at first base.

Hicks grounded to the right side, where a shifted Bo Bichette made the sliding grab and threw while still on the move. The throw forced Guerrero to stretch up the right-field line, placing his bare right hand in the dirt to keep himself balanced. That’s when Hicks’ cleat came down squarely on his fingers, creating a cut that required plenty of tape and bandaging to get through the game and two stitches afterward.​

“He was bleeding a lot,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “I called Voon [Chong] over, our trainer. It was like that Rocky movie. ‘Cut me, Mick!’ He did a great job, because he was bleeding a lot. They stopped the bleeding enough for him to do what he did.”

It looked clear that Guerrero would exit, but as he climbed down into the dugout with a Blue Jays trainer holding his hand in a towel, no replacement bounded out after him. The repair job was quick, and while he’ll likely need to have it cleaned up further, Guerrero came back to put together one of the most dominant performances of his young career, taking his familiar place atop MLB’s home run leaderboard in the process.

“There was a lot of blood, but I wanted to let the trainers work and see what they could do if they stopped the bleeding,” Montoyo continued. “They did. They deserve a lot of credit. We don’t really talk about trainers. Besides Vladdy, the trainers were the MVPs today.”

This is just another brilliant performance from Guerrero, who’s already a perennial MVP candidate. Combine his elite ability to hit for contact with his all-world power and you have one of the most uniquely talented ball players on the planet. The cherry on top? Guerrero looks more comfortable than ever at first base, too, where he snagged a scorching liner to seal the win in the bottom of the ninth.

Who better to appreciate greatness than the face of the team Guerrero just conquered?

"I wish it was against somebody else and I could watch it on TV and didn't see it live,” said Yankees star Aaron Judge. “That's the type of player he is. He can take over a game. It was three impressive swings. I was even more impressed too with two strikes, shooting a double down the right-field line. The guy's a game changer and he's going to be a tough opponent all year."

Guerrero will test his hand Thursday to see how the swelling impacts his swing, but if Wednesday night is any indication, he should be just fine.

Come late September, if the Blue Jays meet expectations and find themselves barreling into a postseason run, April 13 in the Bronx is a night we’ll look back on as one of the moments that defined the season.