TORONTO — In the bottom of the 10th inning Saturday, a breaking ball high and inside was called a strike and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. turned into The Incredible Hulk.
Guerrero jumped into the air, turned and stomped out of the box, well beyond the dirt cutout and towards his own dugout. When he turned and walked back, the count now at 2-2, he slammed his bat down on the plate, almost daring the pitcher to throw to him.
The next pitch? He hit that harder than any other ball in the game, smoking a double over the head of the center fielder that sent the stadium into a frenzy. You won’t like Vladdy when he’s angry — well, maybe you will.
Three batters later, following singles from Bo Bichette and Raimel Tapia, Teoscar Hernández became the walk-off hero of the 6-5 win, bouncing a ball through the left side of the Royals’ infield. By the time Hernández rounded first, arms stretched into the air, the Blue Jays were already swarming him, jerseys being torn off as water sprayed over the celebrating mass of bodies.
Hernández has been on a heater lately, rediscovering the power stroke that made him a Silver Slugger Award winner in each of the past two seasons, but it was Guerrero who changed the entire energy of this game. Prior to his double, the Blue Jays had made a pair of tough outs on the bases in the late innings, their aggression getting the best of them, but Guerrero took his frustrations and channeled them into the game-changing moment.
“That’s who he is. You don’t really see him show that much frustration,” said interim manager John Schneider, “but in that moment it may have been a good thing for him. He’s a stud.”
Guerrero hadn’t walked in his last 17 games, a baffling number for a hitter whose plate discipline has been just as impressive as his power for much of his career. The 23-year-old simply hasn’t been himself of late, which has been evident in some frustrations along the way, but this time was different.
Hernández had the big moment in the bottom of the 10th, but a quiet conversation earlier in the day might have set this whole thing up.
“He was just thinking too much,” Hernández explained after the win, celebration music still pulsing out of the clubhouse behind him. “Today, I talked to him and told him to have fun, be you, go out there and do your thing like you know how to do it. Today, we saw the results. When he hit that double, it fired up the whole team.”
This win encapsulates all of the beauty and…