Toronto Blue Jays

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. shows off his potential in MLB debut

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finishes his MLB debut 1-4 as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Oakland Athletics 4-2 on Friday at Rogers Centre

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. came into his Major League debut on Friday night with as much expectation as any prospect in recent memory. It might be just one game, but he didn’t disappoint.

Guerrero, batting fifth and playing third base for the Toronto Blue Jays in their game against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre, first came to the plate to lead off the second inning. With 28,000 fans rising to their feet and chanting “Let’s Go Vladdy,” he hit a hard grounder to first baseman Kendrys Morales.

In his second AB leading off the fourth inning, Guerrero nearly made the crowd erupt with his first hit. He sent a changeup from Athletics’ starter Mike Fiers deep to left field, but Chad Pinder made a leaping catch right up against the wall as an audible groan reverberated through the stadium. He hit another long fly ball in the sixth inning that was caught by right fielder Stephen Piscotty.

Blue Jays’ starting pitcher Marcus Stroman went seven innings of shutout ball giving up just one hit, and the Blue Jays took a 2-0 lead into the top of the eighth. The Athletics, though, tied it with a pinch-hit home run by Robbie Grossman off reliever Joe Biagini. That gave Guerrero another chance at the plate to lead off the bottom of the ninth and the opportunity to play the hero.

Guerrero may be just 20 years old, but in his last AB he showed the poise of a veteran. He took a 1-2 curveball from Yusmeiro Petit just out of the strike zone for a ball, then went to the opposite field on the next pitch with a double down the right-field line.

Now with the winning run at second base, Guerrero was lifted to a standing ovation for pinch-runner Alen Hanson. Brandon Drury, who lost his starting third baseman job to Guerrero and instead played second on Friday, ended the game with a walk-off, two-run homer as the Blue Jays won 4-2.

Guerrero’s promising night didn’t just happen at the plate, however. In the fourth inning, Piscotty hit a slow roller to third. Guerrero charged in and took the ball off the hop before making a solid throw to get Piscotty out at first. Then, in the seventh, he showed off his strong arm to throw out Pinder at first.

Guerrero finished the game 1-4 with a double. Celebrating in the Blue Jays clubhouse afterward, teammates showered him with beer. It’s that support from the team, and not anything he did on the field, that Guerrero says he will remember most about this memorable night.

“They treat me like I was here for 10 years,” he said. “Everybody treat me very nice, support me the entire game. And that’s really what I’m taking out of this game.”

Guerrero’s impact on the Blue Jays franchise was felt more than on the field. In the previous two Friday night home games this season, Toronto has averaged just under 18,000 fans. On Friday that increased by more than 10,000.

The Blue Jays opened the gates to Rogers Centre an hour early to allow fans to watch Guerrero take batting practice. He proceeded to put on a show, launching mammoth home runs all over the stadium. He didn’t have one of those home runs during the game, but on Friday Guerrero showed why he’s worth the hype. The hardest hit ball by a Blue Jays batter all game wasn’t Drury’s home run or the leadoff homer by Eric Sogard. It was Guerrero’s groundout in the second. It’s a solid start, and he’s only going to get better.

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