Guerrero Jr.’s monster home run forgotten in Blue Jays’ latest heart-breaking loss

Rafael Devers blasted a two-run shot, Jarren Duran hit a walk-off single, and the Boston Red Sox took down the Toronto Blue Jays 7-6.

BOSTON — Monday’s contest was supposed to be Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s game. It was heading that way because he grabbed it by the horns and dragged the Toronto Blue Jays along with him. 

The slugger crushed a mammoth home run in the seventh inning that travelled well over the Green Monster and left Fenway Park. It capped a five-run inning from the visitors and quieted the crowd, serving as an exclamation mark that announced Guerrero Jr. had finally returned to form.

And yet, in true 2024 fashion, fate wouldn’t let Guerrero Jr. or the Blue Jays have that. Instead, his homer was reduced to a mere footnote in what just might be the most heart-breaking defeat of the club’s sorry season. 

The Blue Jays’ bullpen surrendered four runs in the eighth inning and a walk-off in the ninth as the surging Boston Red Sox captured a 7-6 win in front of a lively 35,856 at Fenway Park.

“This one sucks,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “This one’s tough.”

The Blue Jays entered the eighth inning with a 6-2 lead built largely off Guerrero Jr.’s bat and a strong seven-inning, two-run performance by starter Chris Bassitt. Reliever Nate Pearson retired the first Red Sox batter of the frame, then induced a pop-up on the infield. 

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Third baseman Addison Barger let it drop in what was seemingly a communication breakdown between himself and shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and, the next batter, David Hamilton, went deep for a two-run shot that cut the deficit in half. 

Schneider acknowledged that changed the momentum of the game. 

“I think that pop-up kind of deflates you a little bit,” said the manager. 

Tim Mayza came on in relief and allowed a single to Rafael Devers before Tyler O’Neill roped a ball to centre field that a diving Kevin Kiermaier nearly came up with. He missed it, though, deflecting the ball and extended the inning. 

“KK catches that ball 999 times out of 1,000 off O’Niell’s bat,” said Schneider. 

Two batters later, Zach Pop allowed a single to Romy Gonzalez that tied the game at 6 and, in the next inning, the Red Sox completed their stirring comeback with Jarren Duran’s walk-off single off Pop. 

While it’s worth noting the Blue Jays’ bullpen is beleaguered at the moment and is without its closer and the replacement to its closer in Jordan Romano and Yimi Garcia, that doesn’t make this loss sting any less.

“This game’s cruel,” said Schneider. “This game can really beat you up, punch you. Over the course of the last week, and I said it yesterday in Cleveland: The guys are going about it the right way. They’re not quitting and they are out there competing. Today a few mistakes get magnified. And this is a really tough place to record the last three outs in the ninth inning. You got to move on to tomorrow.”  

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The Blue Jays (35-43) have now dropped seven in a row and sit 7.5 games behind the third wild-card spot. Only the Angels, Athletics and White Sox own worse records than the Blue Jays in the American League. 

They’re in a tailspin and are running out of tomorrows. That reality is felt in the clubhouse. 

“I think everyone knows where we’re at right now,” Bassitt said. “We just got to win. Starting tomorrow, we have to win.”

“Obviously we’re not playing our great ball right now, but what can you do?” added Guerrero Jr. through interpreter Hector Lebron. “The only thing we can do is just win some games. The only way to get out of this is to start winning games.”

The first baseman did his part on Monday with a seventh-inning bomb that came off his bat at 113.1 m.p.h. and travelled 471 feet, registering as the longest home run Guerrero Jr. has hit in the big leagues. It was poised to steal the spotlight on an evening that featured the Red Sox honouring the NBA-champion Boston Celtics, who showed up to Fenway with the Larry O’Brien trophy and were celebrated pre-game. 

Guerrero Jr. also collected a 111.6 m.p.h. double off the centre-field wall in the sixth inning and a 106.1 m.p.h. single in the fourth frame. He’s mashing right now, has homered in three of his last four games and says the difference is he’s being more selective of pitches he’s choosing to swing at.  

It’s resulted in the apparent arrival of the version of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. that the Blue Jays have needed all season. However, the sad reality is that it’s coming too late for a team who’s already built a massive hole for itself.

And so, instead of celebrating literally the biggest hit of his career, Guerrero Jr. was forced to answer questions about the mood in a clubhouse that’s gasping for air.

“Definitely, it’s a hard stretch but every day we all come here positive,” said Guerrero Jr. “We’re trying to do everything we can to get that win. We’re working very hard. We work together. We’re all together on this. We’re going to continue to keep grinding and try to get some wins.”

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