Vladmir Guerrero Jr makes debut in Blue Jays win
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. capped his major league debut with a double leading off the ninth inning for his first hit, and Brandon Drury followed with a winning two-run homer with two outs to lift the Toronto Blue Jays over the Oakland Athletics 4-2 on Friday night in Toronto.
The 20-year-old son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, considered the top prospect in the major leagues, grounded out in the second, was robbed of an extra-base hit by left fielder Stephen Pinder’s leaping catch in the fourth, then flew out to right in the sixth.
Guerrero hit an opposite-field double down the right-field line on a 2-2 fastball from Yusmeiro Petit (0-1). Billy McKinney sacrificed pinch-runner Alen Hanson and, with the infield in, Teoscar Hernandez lined out to second baseman Jurickson Profar.
Drury followed with a drive over the center-field wall.
Ken Giles (1-1) struck out two on a one-hit ninth.
Eric Sogard’s first-inning homer and Randal Grichuk’s third-inning RBI single built a lead off Mike Fiers, but Robbie Grossman hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Joe Biagini.
Guerrero Jr. missed the start of the season after an oblique injury in spring training.
In what was being dubbed “Vlad Jr. Day” north of the border, and Guerrero made a pair of slick plays at third base. However, he just missed hitting a couple of home runs. Including being robbed at the wall by Chad Pinder in his second at-bat. But, most impressive of all, he sparked Toronto’s walk-off win. Drury technically was responsible for the go-ahead run, but make no mistake about it, Guerrero was the true hero.
“He was comfortable,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said of Guerrero, who finished 1-for-4. “That’s how he plays. I figured he would be. However, I was more nervous than he was. I can’t imagine handling all of that pressure, all of this press. He is who he is. He’s comfortable, relaxed and he enjoyed the game.”
“I was just concentrating on every at-bat, trying to do my job,” Guerrero said through an interpreter after the game. “I was excited because it was just the way I dreamt it. Therefore, I tried to make contact in my first at-bat and I did.”
“I’m sure [the crowd] was excited, especially a guy like that — Hall of Famer’s son and what he’s done in the Minor Leagues,” A’s right-hander Mike Fiers said. “But for me, it was another guy — I had to attack him just like everybody else. I’m sure it was exciting for him and for everybody here in Toronto and for their team. … It’s a cool experience, I guess, for Toronto.”
Stroman was the one who made sure the Blue Jays had a chance in the ninth inning. The 27-year-old was perfect until Marcus Semien led off the top of the fourth inning with a single to center. Stroman allowed just that one hit while walking two and striking out seven. Toronto’s Opening Day starter threw 61 of his 97 pitches for strikes, and he has now surrendered three earned runs or fewer in all six of his starts this season. But even for Stroman, this night was all about Vlad Jr.
“I was probably just as excited as the entire fan base, to be honest with you, getting Vladdy up here,” Stroman said. “It’s like having Zion Williamson on your team. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of talent. Just to have the opportunity to play with him is amazing, to look out there and see him behind me at third base. I think it’s going to give us a huge mental edge.”