The Yankees would have been hard-pressed to shut out the Blue Jays for a second straight night after winning on Tuesday, 4-0. Indeed, the Toronto offense came back alive on Wednesday, powered by the bat of their 2021 MVP runner-up and the most dangerous hitter in the American League: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Vladito connected for a trio of dingers in a four-hit night. Yankees ace Gerrit Cole could not contain him, and neither could the team’s best reliever, Jonathan Loáisiga. Both men fell victim to Guerrero’s bat, and when the dust had settled, the Yankees’ offense failed to come up with enough runs to counter, leaving the Blue Jays with a 6-4 victory.
Faced with a formidable Toronto lineup, Cole got George Springer to hit a comebacker and fanned Bo Bichette for the first two batters of the game. Next up was Guerrero, who had “only” homered once in his first five games after 47 roundtrippers last year. He got a hanging slider in the middle of the plate and thanked Cole by demolishing it 416 feet to dead center.
Aaron Hicks actually had a chance to make a play, but after running back to the wall and jumping, the ball came out of the inside of his glove:
It might not have actually gone over the wall, but after replay review, the homer stood. Although Hicks will probably say that he should’ve robbed this one, Cole can’t leave pitches like that up to Vladdy.
During the next inning, Hicks got a small measure of revenge on Guerrero when he accidentally spiked him on the hand while beating out an infield single. There was a decent amount of blood and the game was on hold for a few minutes, but the Toronto training staff was able to bandage him up and he stayed in the game — much to the Yankees’ eventual chagrin.
Nothing came of Hicks’ hit, and when Vladdy got another turn at bat in the third, he almost instantly removed any doubt that his hand was A-OK:
Sheesh. Cole didn’t even throw a fat strike on that Guerrero blast, and he turned it around to hit it even further than his first-inning shot, 427 feet away.
This was a 98-mph fastball in on his hands, and he still destroyed it:
That’s next-level talent. Including the playoffs, this was the 250th start of Cole’s career and Guerrero is one of only four players to take the four-time All-Star deep twice in one game.
Although Vladdy was the story of the first half of this ballgame, Blue Jays starter José Berríos shut the Yankees out through four innings as well. He did get some help from the New York offense, as it stranded six runners in the process, most annoyingly in the fourth. Joey Gallo and DJ LeMahieu led off with a walk and infield single, and the Yankees rewarded the effort thusly: Gleyber Torres strikeout, Hicks fielder’s choice, Isiah Kiner-Falefa groundout. Inning over and 3-0 Toronto lead intact.
After a perfect couple innings from Cole, the lineup finally rewarded him for hanging in there against non-Vladdy batters. With one out in the fifth, Anthony Rizzo and Aaron Judge clubbed back-to-back homers that both sailed over 410 feet away:
Just like that, the Blue Jays’ lead was cut to a single run.
It didn’t last much longer, as Josh Donaldson followed Judge’s homer with a double down the left-field line and after a deep fly from Gallo, LeMahieu went the other way on an RBI double. Torres flew out to end the rally, but the score was tied and Berríos was out of the game.
Cole only lasted a bit longer since he was pulled with two outs in the sixth, shortly after Guerrero’s third hit of the night (a double). All told, the ace did a decent job of handling the potent Toronto offense. Outside of Vladdy, Cole only allowed one hit and one walk. Alas, there are no Vladito exceptions in the scorebook, so the game became a battle of the bullpens.
Although Chad Green got Cole out of the sixth, his defense betrayed him in the seventh. The right-hander did make the mistake of walking Alejandro Kirk to begin the frame, but he got Matt Chapman to pop up and jumped out ahead of Raimel Tapia, 0-2. Then, catcher Kyle Higashioka* stuck his glove out too far, and Tapia’s swing ran into it, allowing him to reach on catcher’s interference. Santiago Espinal nearly bailed Higgy out with a double-play ball to third. Regrettably, Torres had trouble getting the throw from LeMahieu out of his glove at second.
*The defense-first catcher/shortstop combination of Higgy and the aforementioned Kiner-Falefa continued their struggles at bat tonight. They’re now a combined 2-for-35 (.057) to start the season. Yikes.
So Espinal reached, and even though Aaron Boone smartly turned to Loáisiga to face Springer, the three-time All-Star cashed in the run anyway:
It wasn’t the cleanest rally, but Jays skipper Charlie Montoyo wasn’t complaining. He had the lead once again.
The Yankees briefly tried to bring it even in the home half of the seventh when Judge reached on a one-out single. Undeterred, Yimi García got Donaldson to bounce into a double play to end the inning. Then on the first pitch of the eighth, Guerrero thoroughly deflated the Yankee Stadium atmosphere by connecting off Loáisiga for the hat trick off with his third homer of the night. Suddenly, it was 5-3, and Toronto tacked on another run when Wandy Peralta didn’t bring his “A” game in relief.
To their credit, the Yankees brought this game back to one exciting swing. Torres crushed an opposite-field homer for his first of the year to cut it to 6-4, somewhat atoning for his earlier misplay. Hicks slashed a single to bring the tying run to the plate, and Boone chose this moment to pinch-hit Giancarlo Stanton for Kiner-Falefa. The masher put forth a mighty swing and fooled many in attendance — broadcasters and cameramen included — into thinking that it was a tie ballgame. No dice; Stanton’s 370-foot drive died in Tapia’s glove on the warning track in left.
Boone called on JP Sears to make his MLB debut in a pivotal moment, and the 26-year-old southpaw made easy work of a trio of tough hitters. Espinal flew out, Springer went down on strikes, and Bichette grounded out weakly to second, ending dreams of a Vladdy four-homer night. The Yankees had one more shot in the ninth when Rizzo reached on a one-out surprise bunt single, but Judge whiffed and Donaldson lined to the Game MVP, Vladdy, for the final out.
From a neutral standpoint, this was undoubtedly a more exciting game than either of the past two shutouts. Unfortunately for the Yankees, they were outplayed by the Blue Jays and especially Guerrero, who took both their top starter and reliever deep for a combined 1,286 feet in the same night.
They’ll try to avoid the series loss tomorrow night and leave the Blue Jays with a four-game split with Luis Severino taking the mound against Kevin Gausman. First pitch is at 7:05pm ET.