3-HR night for Vlad Jr? Even dad never did it!

April 28th, 2021

The first act of ’s breakout season officially has its trademark moment.

Guerrero launched three home runs against the Nationals on Tuesday night in Dunedin, Fla., single-handedly carrying the Blue Jays to a 9-5 win with the biggest night of his Major League career. The young star got it started in the third inning when he stepped in with the bases loaded against Max Scherzer for a battle of best on best.

Down three, a steep hill to climb against Scherzer, Guerrero launched the go-ahead grand slam deep over the left-field wall, turning on a hanging slider before holding his finish for a moment to admire his work. Even the Nationals players appreciated what they were seeing on Guerrero's historic night.

“I feel like all of his at-bats tonight were really, really incredible -- really special,” said Washington’s Josh Bell. “We saw [Jacob] deGrom work last week, and that was something else. And we saw it here again. Just a franchise superstar at work. It’s fun to watch."

Guerrero was tending to some family business, too. Last season, Scherzer struck out Guerrero just over a decade after he first struck out his father for the first time, becoming one of just nine pitchers to strike out both Guerreros. The grand slam put Scherzer on a shorter list, though, and one he doesn’t want to be on. Eleven years and four days ago, Guerrero Sr. launched a two-run shot off a 25-year-old Scherzer, who now joins Iván Nova as the only two pitchers to be taken deep by both father and son.

Vladdy Jr. wasn’t done, though. Not even against one of baseball’s best.

Two innings later, Scherzer tried to force a 3-2 fastball past Guerrero on the outer half. Guerrero extended his arms and launched a 110.5 mph rocket 436 feet, clearing both the wall and the outfield concourse behind it. Skip ahead another two innings, and Guerrero launched a Kyle Finnegan sinker to the opposite field to complete the hat trick and give him seven RBIs on the night.

“All of this feels great. I’m feeling very blessed right now,” Guerrero said through a club translator. “Hitting two home runs against a legend like that, it’s unbelievable what I’m feeling right now. It’s all in my preparation, all in the work that I’m putting in before the games, and I thank God that it’s paying off.”

The three-homer game is a feat that Guerrero Jr.'s Hall of Fame father never accomplished.

By the time the dust settled, Guerrero had hit 1,226 feet worth of home runs. He became the seventh-youngest player in the history of Major League Baseball to hit three home runs in the same game, behind only Corey Seager (2016), Boog Powell (1963), Al Kaline ('55), Eddie Mathews ('52), Hal Trosky ('34) and Mel Ott ('30), and the youngest to do it with seven RBIs. That’s some good company to be in. He also became the youngest player in Blue Jays history to go yard three times in one game.

Scherzer entered Tuesday’s game riding a streak of 17 consecutive shutout innings, but the three-time Cy Young Award winner was no match for the 22-year-old Guerrero. Few pitchers have been this season. It’s been a few years since grainy Minor League videos of Guerrero from the night before were fueling Blue Jays fans each morning, but now he’s doing the same in HD on the big stage. In classic Guerrero fashion, though, he tried to deflect the praise elsewhere.

“It feels great, but all of the trust I get from my team and my teammates, all of the work that I put in with my coaches before the game and all of the preparation, that’s what it’s all about,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero’s first two seasons did not meet expectations. Yes, he was young for the big leagues -- and still is -- but as other young stars like Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr. rose to superstardom immediately, Guerrero trailed behind. Over his first two seasons, Guerrero hit .269 with a .778 OPS, and while the power potential was clearly there, the former No. 1 prospect in all of baseball was hitting too many balls on the ground and, at times, battling his body.

“We talked to him last year at the end of the year,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “His goal was to get in better shape and to do better. He did. He deserves all the credit in the world for what he’s doing right now, because he had an outstanding offseason and he’s ready to play. He’s doing what we thought he was going to do.”

This is why Guerrero’s bat was not just discussed as a "good" or "great" tool, but one with generational potential. The Blue Jays have leaned far too heavily on Guerrero’s bat through April as they deal with injuries and some inconsistencies through the rest of their order, but he’s showing that he is capable of carrying a lineup. No player can do that night-in and night-out, but three home runs with seven RBIs will turn a loss into a win quickly.