May 23, 2024

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Teammates Vladimir Guerrero Jr. returning from the All-Star break

Teammates Vladimir Guerrero Jr. returning from the All-Star break

In his first attack since being crowned the Derby title on Monday in Seattle, Guerrero blasted a predictable Statcast shot from 426 feet to the left to open the scoring in Friday’s 7-2 win over D-linebacker. There it was all again, grand choreography. to run in his house.

Right away, we saw the answer to the question Blue Jays fans are asking with hope and 29 other teams fearfully asking: What if the Home Run Derby woke up Vlady?

“He carried what he was doing in Seattle,” said manager John Schneider. “I thought his bats were great. It’s always good to jump in and take the lead, and hopefully that gets him going a little bit.”

That lap was already starting to pick up some quiet momentum before the break as well.

“I will say that before the derby, in that previous series, I was starting to feel very good,” Guerrero told the club through a translator. “When I start to get comfortable in the dish, things will get better.”

Guerrero had a brief period of power from late June to early July, hitting four times in 10 games, but this is the closest we’ve seen to the 2021 version of Guerrero that he and the Blue Jays are craving. Seeing a sluggish player with just 14 home runs and 800 OPS 89 games into his season is annoying, but he didn’t quite light up the league in 2018, either (32 HR, .819 OPS).

Friday’s long ball looked so much like old Vlady’s, it even had shades of a home run derby performance on soft infield pitch, like what Schneider fed him in Seattle. The rhetoric about Guerrero was that the All-Star and the Derby crown could “fix his swing” or “unleash his power,” but that’s about something more difficult to measure.

Guerrero hit the ball hard all season, creating some predictable baselines and stats that scream “his numbers have to be better,” but it wasn’t. What you saw in Seattle, and again when Guerrero was attacked in the dugout on Friday, the 24-year-old was his normal self.

On a basic level, he’s at his best when he’s enjoying himself. This, more than any swinging logistics, is why the derby has been so valuable to Guerrero, who seems to be sticking with the strategy he used in the event.

“There is no plan at all. Guerrero said. “I’m just going to have fun with it and beat up my mates.”

Later in the game, Guerrero extended his arms to run an outside slider and kept the seventh turn alive with a single. Matt Chapman followed Guerrero with a double and White kept Merrifield on the line moving on his own, which led to four more runs off the double offense. It was another glimpse of what this crime could do. Like Guerrero himself, the flashes were charming, but not consistent enough.

This five-run seventh inning, right after former Blue Jays first baseman Gabriel Moreno tied things up with a home run for D linebacker, is exactly the kind of role Toronto needed this season, too. The team has felt stuck in tight matches at times, unable to find fifth gear and use their knack to pull away in the final frames.

As Vlady goes, so do the Blue Jays.

“We’ve been saying that all the time. I still think this, and everyone in the club will tell you the same thing: Our best baseball is ahead of us,” Schneider said. . We trust the players who are there in any situation and we’ve had a strange experience for a while with runners on base, but hopefully tonight it’s off to a good start.”

This is the last “fresh start” of 2023. There are 70 games left in the regular season, and nothing will change the course of the Blue Jays more than extending Guerrero to the Derby.