The opponents on Monday were the always-popular Boston Red Sox, the World Series defending champions in town to begin a four-game set at Rogers Centre.
It was also Victoria Day, a national holiday across Canada, and the game had an appealing early afternoon start, a good opportunity to take the family down to the ballpark to check out the rookie phenom in person.
Only trouble was, the phenom in question, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., was not playing.
After heating up nicely on the just-concluded road trip, the rebuilding Toronto Blue Jays made the curious decision to give their most marketable asset a rest day.
With Guerrero cooling his heels, the Red Sox had little trouble disposing of the underwhelming Blue Jays 12-2 in a lacklustre affair played out before 27,000 fans.
Michael Chavis, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers all homered for Boston (25-22) as the visitors outhit the Blue Jays 16-3.
The decision not to play Guerrero seemed even more cock-eyed when it was announced during the game that the 20-year-old had been chosen as the American League’s player of the week.
Last week, while the Blue Jays were on the road, Guerrero batted .333 (7-for-21) with five runs scored, four home runs, three walks and a .905 slugging percentage in six games.
Guerrero is the youngest player in Blue Jays history to win the award.
The Blue Jays (19-28) are in the midst of playing games over 16 consecutive days, and Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said every player is going to need a break. Monday, it was Guerrero.
“He could pinch-hit or stuff,” Montoyo said. “Everybody’s going to get a day off anyways, 16 straight days. So [Monday] was Vlad’s [turn].”
It was Toronto’s third largest crowd of the season and, no doubt, many were there to see Guerrero. When word filtered out that he was not in the starting lineup, disgruntled fans roasted the Blue Jays on social media.
Sitting Guerrero “on a Victoria Day home game against David Price … is a total slap in the face to fans and just highlights" the dysfunction of the Blue Jays, was one fan’s angst on Twitter.
As Monday’s game quickly got out of hand, some Rogers Centre fans started chanting “Vladdy-Vladdy” to try to coax the manager to sub him into the game.
Obviously, Montoyo had his mind made up – even when he learned just before the game that Eric Sogard, who had a sprained left thumb, would not be able to play.
The second baseman jammed his thumb during Sunday’s game in Chicago while sliding into first base.
Brandon Drury could have easily been shifted from third base to second to take Sogard’s spot, which would have freed Guerrero to start at third.
Instead, Montoyo opted to have Richard Urena start at second and keep Guerrero tethered to the bench.
Guerrero said after the game that he only found out he wasn’t playing when he arrived at the stadium and checked the starting lineup.
After dealing with an oblique injury that cut his spring training short, Guerrero said he understands having to take a day off every once in a while.
“We’re just being careful,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.
The Red Sox made quick work of Edwin Jackson, the Blue Jays starter, roughing him up for two runs and a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Both the runs were unearned after Urena was charged with an error after losing the handle on a throw by catcher Luke Maile on a base-stealing play.
“The Red Sox are one of the best teams in baseball,” Montoyo said. “And early on in the game, we didn’t make a couple of plays and they took advantage of it. That’s what good teams do.”
Toronto tied the game in the second when Maile launched his second home run of the season, a two-run shot to the left off Price, the Boston starter.
But it was all Boston after that as the Red Sox tagged on four more off Jackson in the third. The big blow was a two-run home run off the bat of rookie Chavis.
Boston made it 8-2 in the sixth, when Bradley hit a two-run homer off Toronto reliever Elvis Luciano.
With the score 10-2 heading into the ninth, Bogaerts and Devers both homered off Toronto reliever Ryan Tepera to round out the Boston scoring.