As far as major-league debuts are concerned, chalk this one up as a positive experience for Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
After going 0-for-3 in his first three at-bats, the game’s top prospect led off the bottom of the ninth in a tie game against the Oakland Athletics.
With the crowd at Rogers Centre on its feet urging the young phenom on, Guerrero came through and lashed a double just inside the first-base bag into the right-field corner.
Alen Hanson was sent in to pinch run for Guerrero and he went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Billy McKinney.
That set the table for Brandon Drury, who swatted a pitch from reliever Yusmeiro Petit over the wall in centre. It was a walk-off two-run home run, which provided the Blue Jays with a dramatic 4-2 win in the opener of a three-game weekend series against the A’s.
Overall, it was a solid start for Guerrero, who played third base and batted fifth in his debut.
Marcus Stroman was cruising along in his start for Toronto, one-hitting the A’s with seven strikeouts through seven innings before turning the ball over to Joe Biagini in the eighth to protect a 2-0 lead. But Biagini served up two-run pinch-hit home run to Robbie Grossman that knotted the score.
The crowd topped 28,000, well above Toronto’s average this season, no doubt bolstered by the presence of Guerrero, who was just called up from Triple A.
The spectators lapped it up as Guerrero drew loud applause every time he stepped into the batter’s box, but he could not reward the loyalty with a hit in his first three at-bats, although he came close.
In the fourth inning, his long fly ball to left field wound up in the glove of Chad Pinder, who made a nice leaping grab high off the wall..
The red-hot Eric Sogard got the Blue Jays off to a quick start, knocking a lead-off home run to extend his hitting streak to eight games to provide Toronto with a 1-0 leg up. Randal Grichuk increased the lead to 2-0 when he singled to centre in the third, which brought home Danny Jansen from second base.
Guerrero’s defensive play has always been the weakest aspect of his game. And although he was only tested a couple of times against Oakland, he made the best of it.
In his first defensive touch in the fourth inning, he fielded a ground ball on the short hop off the bat of Piscotty and threw over to first for the out.
In the seventh, Guerrero got a chance to air out his big arm after gathering a Chad Pinder grounder behind the bag. Guerrero remained measured and then threw the ball on a rope to Justin Smoak to get the runner.