NEW YORK – In the first round Wednesday night in the Bronx, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. struck. a home.
Among the many aesthetic pleasures baseball promises, every time two teams go for the diamond, it’s among the cleanest – perhaps the game’s largest single source of power generation, with one of the most recognizable names on the back of its jersey and one of the hottest on the front and launches a slider from New York Yankees es Gerrit Cole to instantly center in a matchup of AL East’s most established institution and the beloved Toronto Blue Jays.
The course itself contained some drama. The ball traveled 416 feet, enough to get over the wall in front of Yankee Stadium Monument Park, but not quite enough to escape Aaron Hick’s outstretched glove. For a split second, the Yankees midfielder appeared to have robbed Guerrero, but before he could close the glove, the ball was gone.
It was Guerrero’s second home race of the young season. Last year, he played an MVP-worthy campaign with an MLB-leading 48 homeruns, but ended up becoming number two after the only one who could have surpassed such an achievement: Shohei Ohtani’s historic two-way sensation. And the Blue Jays played post-season-worthy baseball, but ended up with 91 wins, one less than a wildcard spot.
In the spring, Guerrero called 2021 for the trailer. This year would be even better, the feature. Call it something like that The Blue Jays’ unfinished business. Or Vlad and the gang go to October. The public has shopped in and has vaulted Jays from lovable also-rans to popular preseason pick to win it all.
So at least, after five games and one frame, Guerrero Jr. had to homeruns. By the end of the night, he would double it. But first, Toronto fans wanted to see their star’s season blink before their eyes.
At the bottom of the second, Bo Bichette’s throw of a smooth fielding game pulls Guerrero away from the bag. The first baseman’s right hand is on the ground for a split second, just long enough for all 205 pound Hicks to get down on it, pointing first.
Vlad, spit. Blue Jays coach and manager Charlie Montoyo meets him on the field.
“I already had in mind that I would not get out of the game no matter what,” Guerrero said through an interpreter.
“I saw a lot of blood,” Montoyo said. And then he said it twice more.
“I said to Charlie, ‘I’m not coming out of the game,'” Guerrero said.
“He told me, ‘I’m not coming out of the game,'” Montoyo said. “I do not want you to get out of the game!”
So it was decided then. A little tape – that part hurt, the tightness of a wound that would later require two stitches – and back to a night that had just begun.
Top of the third and Guerroro is back on the bat. The finger feels nice, yes, nice enough not to have to favor it.
“Same grip,” he said, “as nothing was there.”
And then he proves it, emphatically. To hit a 98-mph fastball too far inside to call a good pitch at all. Guerrero puts it in the visiting bullpen 427 feet from the home plate. The seventh two-home run fight of his young career.
The next time Guerrero meets Cole, he only gets a double and a hat tip from the perennial Cy Young challenger.
“Did you see the night?” said Cole. “If you had a cap, you would also tip it. It also got better after that. You good one.”
What looks better? Guerrero back on the plate in the eighth inning, now facing Jonathan Loaisiga, still wearing bloodstained pants. The most successful batters, remember, fail more than twice as often as they succeed. And yet we can not help but imagine heroism when the best step to the plate, when the moment almost demands it. It’s the twisted trap of baseball, the way the game stops, so you can consider the circumstances, the stakes, the story lines that hang in balance, and how the unlikely outcome would be the coolest. Come on, he could not, right?
And then there is the additive beauty of baseball, how it sometimes delivers. A 23-year-old has the kind of game that will be in the spotlight when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame one day. At a 95-mph sink, Guerrero hits his third home run of the game, this 443-footer. The pathos of it all has only made him more powerful.
It’s the second three-homer fight of his career. It’s also necessary to beat the Yankees, 6-4, and Guerrero especially loves to beat the Yankees, which is something his Hall of Fame father Vlad Guerrero always stressed the importance of. Maybe it will be the one match that makes the difference at the end of the regular season. Can you imagine having that kind of game?
“Just add it to my list,” Guerrero said later with a smile.