BALTIMORE -- The Triple Crown watch is officially on for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who slugged his way into a tie for the MLB lead in home runs on Sunday with his 44th of the season against the Orioles.
Now tied with Shohei Ohtani of the Angels, Guerrero has breathed life back into his season with an incredible two weeks at the plate, including eight home runs over his last 14 games. The 22-year-old took a dip in August, leading to some worry after he had run out of gas late in the season as a rookie and in 2020, but Guerrero is back to powering one of baseball’s most dangerous offenses.
“He’s learning,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “This is the first full year for a lot of these guys, so they need to make an adjustment when they’re tired and he’s done a good job of that. His approach is back. It’s outstanding right now. When his approach at the plate is really good, he’s always going to have a chance to hit one out.”
Guerrero’s home run was a drop in the bucket for the Blue Jays on Sunday, too, as they scored the second-most runs in franchise history in a 22-7 rout of the Orioles. The Blue Jays jumped out to a 16-4 lead through just three innings, carrying over the momentum from their two comeback wins on Saturday. They look almost unstoppable.
With 14 wins in their last 16 games, the Blue Jays (80-63) are now tied with the Red Sox (81-64), who lost Sunday, for the top AL Wild Card spot. The Yankees (79-63) play the Mets on Sunday night and as of Sunday afternoon sit a half-game back while the Mariners (77-66) and A’s (77-66), still very much in this race, are now three games behind the Blue Jays.
By the time Toronto wrapped its rout and boarded the plane home for a critical three-game series against Tampa Bay, here’s where Guerrero ranked in the Triple Crown races:
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. -- 44
2. Shohei Ohtani -- 44
3. Salvador Perez -- 42
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. -- .319
2. Yuli Gurriel -- .315
3. Michael Brantley -- .315
1. José Abreu -- 107
2. Salvador Perez -- 105
T-3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. -- 102
T-3. Rafael Devers -- 102
T-3. Teoscar Hernández -- 102
Sunday’s blast at Camden Yards was a Guerrero classic, leaving the bat at 113.2 mph and wrapping around the left-field pole before crashing into the seats. Guerrero’s power has gone to all fields this season, but when he turns on a pitch, there’s never a doubt.
This has all been set up by Guerrero’s elite plate approach. Guerrero has always maintained that he’s a hitter first, and the power comes second, which he showed in Saturday’s historic win over the Orioles in Game 2 of the doubleheader. Down 1-0 heading into the seventh inning and being no-hit by Baltimore’s Keegan Akin, Guerrero led off the inning by shooting a single the other way. It’s something that Guerrero does just as well as hitting home runs, and it sparked an 11-run, 11-hit inning for the Blue Jays, both of which tied franchise records.
Suddenly, Guerrero has a shot at chasing the 50-homer milestone that seemed impossible two weeks ago. It will take another run to get there, but if this weekend in Baltimore is any indication, anything is possible for the Blue Jays.