Welcome to the future!
In perhaps the most dramatic ending to a spring training game I’ve ever seen, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. put an exclamation point on the hype that followed him around all spring.
Montreal hasn’t had a baseball team in over a decade, but tonight, the son of the man who was the face of the Expos for many of their closing years stepped to the plate wearing his father’s number in the ninth inning of a scoreless game and launched one to Kingdom Come.
In one miraculous moment, spring training became the past, and the future became the present.
This type of thing isn’t supposed to happen in baseball. You can’t script the game or call plays. Things just have to line up and happen, and when they do so in the fashion they did tonight, it’s that much more exhilarating.
Just for Vlad Jr. to have the opportunity was a bit of a long shot. You’re talking the last out of a tied game that wasn’t going extras because spring training, and we hadn’t seen a runner make it beyond second base yet. It was all or nothing right in this spot, so I’m sure the thought of Guerrero hitting a walk off homer crossed everybody’s mind, but storybook finishes rarely manifest themselves in this game. Tonight though, it didn’t matter. The top prospect in the organization swung for the fences and stamped his presence in Canada.
In case it wasn’t already obvious, Guerrero Jr. is on the fast track to becoming a special player, and special players often find a way to do special things. Tonight, there are no brakes on the hype train. Guerrero Jr. hasn’t played a game above High-A yet, but he’s already given many Canadians a baseball memory they will never forget .... And something tells me, this won’t be the last one either.
Before Guerrero’s heroics, this was mostly a forgettable game.
Joe Biagini danced around trouble a few times during his five innings of work, but always seemed to come up with the right pitch at the right time when he needed to wiggle out of a jam. He recorded 12 of his 15 outs via three double plays and six strikeouts, so despite allowing five hits, runners didn’t tend to move very much once they got on base.
After Biagini, Andrew Case, Danny Young, Jose Fernandez and Justin Shafer combined to pitch four perfect innings, ultimately helping set the stage for Vlad Jr.
Before the ninth inning heroics, the Jays only mustered two hits all night; one was a ground ball the other way from Kendrys Morales to beat the shift, and the other was a single from Kevin Pillar who continued his hot spring.
The next time the Jays take the field, it will be the real thing with J.A. Happ taking the mound against Luis Severino and the Yankees on Thursday from the Rogers Centre at 3:37 p.m ET. It’s hard to believe that game will have a finish as exciting at this one, but it’s baseball, so you never know.