Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s third season in the majors is off to a smashing start, both literally and figuratively, as the beefy young lad is murdering baseballs all over the place. Tuesday night he tormented Nationals ace Max Scherzer and delighted the 21 Blue Jays fans of Dunedin, Fla. with a rare and frightening power display, becoming the youngest player since at least 1901 to sock three dingers and drive in seven runs in one game.
Scherzer came into the game on a modest tear, having not allowed a single run over his previous 17 innings of work, including a pair of 1-0 Nationals wins over the Cardinals and Diamondbacks. But trouble came in the third inning Tuesday night, with Vlad Jr.’s fellow success sons, Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette, singling and walking respectively to load the bases with one out. Scherzer lamented after the game that he had trouble with command all night, but it looked to me like the slider he threw to Guerrero on a 2-1 count was more-or-less where catcher Yan Gomes wanted it. Problem is, that is apparently also where Guerrero wanted it, because he socked it quite literally into the playground of a nearby elementary school for a grand slam, already the third of his career.
Guerrero faced Scherzer again to lead off the bottom of the fifth and clobbered the bejeezus out of a 3-2 fastball to put the Blue Jays up four runs. He added a third dinger, a two-run job, in the seventh off reliever Kyle Finnegan. For good measure, this one was hit to the opposite field. As Nats manager Davey Martinez noted after the game, if his team produces offensively the way they did in this game—four dingers and five runs—and has Scherzer on the mound, that’s pretty close to an automatic win: The Nationals came into the game a sparkling 51-6 in Scherzer starts when the offense produces five or more runs. But with three mighty hacks Vlad Jr. produced seven runs of his own, and that was more than enough.
I am loath to engage in dad-shaming, but it must be noted that in the extremely bitchin’ Hall-of-Fame career of Vladimir Guerrero, only once did he produce more than six RBI in a game, and never once in his 16 seasons did he sock three dingers in a game. Parents are supposed to look forward to their children surpassing their own accomplishments, but frankly it is rude and impertinent for children to start this process at 22 damn years of age. MLB’s own website boasts, “Even dad never did it!” Dad also never batted below .290 in any season of his career, assholes! Back off!
The kid has a long way to go to sniff even the trail of his dad’s towering legend, but for now his reputation is only growing. Martinez noted that everyone not named Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had the usual struggles against his ace pitcher, scattering a handful of soft hits and producing one measly earned run. Washington’s Josh Bell likened watching Vlad Jr. hit to the experience of facing best-pitcher-of-his-generation and future-Hall-of-Famer Jacob deGrom, and called his at-bats “really, really incredible—really special.” It’s early, both in his career and in the season, but Vlad Jr. leads the league in dingers, has a 1.177 OPS, and has more walks than strikeouts. And he just pounded one of the best pitchers in baseball into the turf like a garden stake. He rules.