It was all about Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.
The Nationals are such a bad team right now that, even the best players they could put on the field couldn’t keep up with Toronto’s young superstar, the son of former Montreal Expo Vladimir Guerrero. Vlad Jr.’s single-game home run total Tuesday was more than Vlad’s dad ever had in a game his 16-year Hall-of-Fame career.
Due to COVID restrictions in Toronto, the Blue Jays are playing home games at TD Ballpark, in Dunedin, Florida, the home of their low-A farm team. With no large structure to stop the wind from affecting the ball, and with an unusual lighting setup, batted balls can be elusive and travel well.
“As much as you think it sucks, everybody thinks it sucks.“ Scherzer said. “They probably think it sucks. They want to be playing probably at Rogers Centre. But they came out here and they’re ready to roll, we’re ready to roll.
“These are big league games and you’ve got to be ready to compete against the best players in the league.”
In those conditions, the sluggers quickly gained advantage, and with a fastball pitcher like Scherzer catching too much plate, Guerrero took over the game.
“I made some good pitches tonight, and they fouled it off, and I made a bad pitch and they’d crush it,” said Scherzer.
“Make a mistake and you get beat in this league, so I tip my hat to them, they did a great job tonight.”
Guerrero’s first homer in the third put his team in control of the game, and the next two emphasized his own dominance over a Nats team that has no sense of consistency or continuity in any phase of the game.
Even Trea Turner’s second two-homer game of the season and deep shots from Yadiel Hernandez and Ryan Zimmerman couldn’t hide the bad baseball the Nationals are playing right now.
Had they found a way to score other than the home run, the Nats might have kept up with Guerrero, but instead they made an opponent’s “bullpen game” look like an All-Star lineup trotting to the mound.
In doing so, the Nats again demonstrated where they are as a team by stranding six base runners and going 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position — and that one hit did not get the run home.
Twice, the Nationals put a leadoff runner aboard, once advancing him to third base with nobody out, and both times putting him in scoring position with another runner on.
As has been the Nationals’ habit, all those those potential runs were left on base to die.
Victor Robles’s biggest contribution to a miserable, 0-for-4 night at the plate was his fourth-inning at-bat against Anthony Castro, who relieved eventual winner and former Nat Tommy Milone, with the bases loaded and one out. Five pitches later, Robles chipped off a room-service ball to short, and two outs later, the best chance the Nats would have for a big inning was over.
That missed opportunity came after the team’s only hit with a runner in scoring position, Josh Harrison’s single to right following Kyle Schwarber’s leadoff double. The slow-running Schwarber was rightly held at third for Alex Avila, who walked to load the bases for Robles.
More Nats’ futility in the bottom of the inning involving Harrison and Yadiel Hernández turned the night ugly for starter and losing pitcher Max Scherzer, whose ERA ballooned from 1.80 to a relatively pedestrian 3.00.
Having already taken the lead on Guerrero’s grand slam off Scherzer the inning before, the Jays got a leadoff double from Joe Panik, who remained at second with one out.
Alejandro Kirk hit a Texas Leaguer over Harrison at second base that hung in the air long enough to draw Harrison back and Hernandez in from right.
The ball glanced off of Harrison’s glove, and right through the wickets of Hernández’s legs, rolling all the way to the wall.
“That ball, as I know and he knows, and everybody knows, it should be caught,” said Martinez.
Panik scored, and Kirk wound up on third, then came home on Cavan Biggio’s sacrifice fly, a play the Nationals could not execute with the bases loaded and one out a half inning earlier.
From then on, it was all about the homers, and then all about Guerrero’s. The Nats did not have enough weight in the lineup or even on the mound to tilt the field in their direction.
“I’ve got to clean up, and dial it in,“ said Scherzer. “There’s too many pitches that are thigh-high, and everybody in the league now can just crush thigh-high pitches.”
And so even with Scherzer on the mound and the best hitters they could put on the field cranking home runs, the Nationals are a mere footnote in the Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s story in any video roundup.
The Nats’ own replays will more likely be found in the “baseball bloopers” segment.
“Typically when we score five runs and we got Max Scherzer on the mound, that usually ends up with a curly-W win,“ said Martinez “It didn’t tonight.”