TORONTO – Before Mike Trout started punishing them at levels that seem beyond comprehension, other players seemed to deliver big hit after big hit when playing the Mariners.
In the B.T. (before Trout) era, there was Vladimir Guerrero, who spent seven seasons of his Hall of Fame career playing in the American League West – six with the Angels, one with Texas – tormenting the M’s. While injuries had robbed him of his freakish athleticism in the field and on the bases, he still smacked around Seattle pitchers. In 57 career games versus the Mariners, Guerrero hit .338 with 13 homers and 46 RBI.
Now it’s his son’s turn.
After arriving as a prospect more hyped than his father and mesmerizing fans with 91 homers in this year’s Home Run Derby – one he didn’t win – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. started his career versus the Mariners in the footsteps of his old man.
Guerrero blasted a two-run homer in the third inning off Wade LeBlanc, giving Toronto the lead for good as the Blue Jays cruised to a relatively easy 7-3 win over Seattle.
LeBlanc (6-7) pitched seven innings of bulk relief, allowing seven runs on 11 hits, including four homers, with a walk and three strikeouts to take the loss.
“This place is conducive to the home runs,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “You can’t give up four of them and think you are coming out on the right end.”
Of the four, Guerrero’s was the most impressive. It was his 14th homer in the 92nd game of his rookie season. His father didn’t hit his 14th homer until the 101st game of his career.
“He’s a talented player,” Servais said. “That pitch wasn’t where it was supposed to go. You saw our catcher’s reaction. He set up over there and the ball was way over here. And that’s what happens in this league. He’s got a lot of power.”
The pitch was a 2-2 changeup from LeBlanc that was supposed to go low and away and instead cut low and inside. It wasn’t close to a strike, but Guerrero turned it into a laser of a line drive that somehow stayed fair. It was reminiscent of, well, you know who.
“He’s a good hitter,” LeBlanc said. “His dad did it for years.”
The result wasn’t as bothersome to LeBlanc as the pitch and its action.
“The changeup, it cut three feet,” LeBlanc said.
Indeed, LeBlanc has said on multiple occasions that the new baseballs used this year have had detrimental effects for pitchers besides their propensity to turn into home runs. The feel of the seams and slippery cover have made offspeed pitches inconsistent in their spin and break. A command pitcher, LeBlanc can’t command baseballs that randomly do something different than what they’ve always done.
“I haven’t had a feel for anything this year,” he said. “Whether it’s the baseballs or not, at some point, you have to figure out a way to make some pitches, get some guys out.”
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