'They don't boo nobodies': Vlad Jr. shushes Yankees into 1st series loss

April 23rd, 2023

NEW YORK -- It was a pitchers’ duel until  decided that it wasn’t.

The boos rained down on Guerrero, who reiterated this week that he’d never play for the Yankees, drawing the ire of a city and fan base that aren’t used to hearing the word “no.” Then, he launched a rocket into the left-field seats, breaking open a 5-1 win on Sunday that handed the Yankees their first series loss of the season.

Guerrero lives for these moments. He rounded first base with his hand raised above his head and his finger pointed to the sky, then rounded second and skipped once, slowing his trot. As he neared third, Guerrero slapped his left hand to his right elbow and raised one finger to his lips while he stared into his own dugout, then kissed the inside of each wrist and clapped his mighty hands together once as he crossed home. When his foot finally touched the plate, Guerrero rubbed his thumbs and fingers together, that classic “money” gesture.

There have been Beyoncé concerts with less choreography.

Guerrero swears that he doesn’t hear those boos when he’s in the batter’s box. Rounding the bases, though, he turns the volume up.

“Of course you listen to that,” Guerrero said through a club interpreter, “but they’re not going to take that home run away from me. I’ll just run the bases and enjoy it.”

This is all what makes Guerrero special. No matter the stage, stadium or opponent, he’s always a moment away from becoming the star of the show. Those moments felt farther away in 2022, as Guerrero tried too hard to photocopy his ‘21 season.

When the moments come, though, we see Guerrero the grand showman. He’s skipping his way around the bases, dropping into the splits and beating his chest at first base or flipping his helmet off the moment it wobbles to blaze a trail to the next base, his braids and chains bouncing in every which direction. It’s difficult for one ballplayer to be worth the price of admission alone, but Guerrero can be that guy.

A little hatred from the New York fans only adds to the intrigue.

“That was a huge series from him,” said manager John Schneider. “You get here, you get booed and you can do one of two things. Reggie Jackson said they don’t boo nobodies.”

Yankees fans have felt the full wrath of Guerrero’s talents, too. He owns the highest slugging percentage in the history of Yankee Stadium (.614) among hitters who have had at least 100 at-bats. In just 34 games in the Bronx, he has launched 12 home runs and driven in 21 runs.

Two pitches after Guerrero launched his fifth homer of the season, sent his second of the season to right field, sending a wave of momentum in the Blue Jays’ direction. This was all Toronto needed, because was on the mound.

Gausman turned in a classic performance with 11 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings, a new high for him with the Blue Jays. The right-hander allowed seven runs in the first inning alone his last time out against the Astros, but that was an oddball outlier all along. Gausman’s trademark splitter was back to being nearly unhittable Sunday, getting 11 whiffs on 20 swings as the Yankees were stuck deciding between that and his fastball. What an unenviable place to be.

Gausman also had a front-row seat to Guerrero’s performance this weekend. Count him among the many Blue Jays pitchers who are just happy they never have to face him.

“He says he doesn’t like playing here, but he plays pretty well here,” Gausman said with a smile. “Any time he comes up to bat, we’re all paying attention, because he just hits the ball so hard. You don’t know what you’re going to see. Obviously, that’s a big two-run home run that got things started. He’s a guy that kind of likes being the villain when we come here.”

A hero at home and a villain on the road, like so many great players.

Toronto’s rotation is suddenly back. Along with Yusei Kikuchi and , the Blue Jays’ starters held the Yankees to only one run over 20 innings during the three-game series in the Bronx, which is no easy task in a stadium so generous.

Guerrero tried to return that generosity by sending two Yankees fans home with souvenirs, but after a weekend of escalating boos, Sunday’s home run ball was thrown back as Guerrero worked through the details of his home run trot.