Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays bid to batter Nationals again

MLB

Starting pitcher Steven Matz will vie for his fifth consecutive win Wednesday night, an outcome that would give the Toronto Blue Jays a two-game sweep of the Washington Nationals at Dunedin, Fla.

The Blue Jays posted a 9-5 win in the opener on Tuesday night after Vladimir Guerrero Jr. recorded career bests with three home runs — including his third career grand slam — and seven RBIs.

Two of Guerrero’s home runs — including the grand slam — were against Max Scherzer.

“Hitting two homers against a legend like that, it’s unbelievable what I’m feeling right now,” Guerrero said.

Per MLB Stats, the 22-year-old is the youngest player since at least 1901 to have three homers and seven RBIs in one game.

Guerrero’s father, who is in the Hall of Fame, never had a three-homer game.

“I didn’t pitch well tonight, that’s obvious,” Scherzer said. “I was really inconsistent with my glove-side stuff, where sometimes I’d be executing a fastball and slider arm-side, and the next time I’d leave it glove-side.”

Matz (4-0, 2.31 ERA) is 1-7 with a 4.83 ERA in 15 career outings against the Nationals. As a member of the New York Mets, the left-hander made three appearances (two starts) against the Nationals last season and was 0-2 with a 13.94 ERA.

Right-hander Erick Fedde (1-2, 5.51) will get the nod for the Nationals.

In his past three starts, Fedde has a 3.07 ERA with five walks and 17 strikeouts. He has faced the Blue Jays on just one occasion, a no-decision start on July 30, 2020 when he allowed two runs on six hits in 3 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays had hopes that outfielder George Springer (quadriceps) might play his first game for them on Tuesday, however the team’s big offseason, free-agent signing still needs time.

Springer took batting practice before the game Tuesday but running remains a problem.

“He feels great, except the running,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He’s got to make sure he’s close to 100 percent to start playing.”

Springer opened the season on the injured list with an oblique strain. Near the end of his rehabilitation, he sustained a strained right quadriceps.

When Springer does return, he could possibly ease back into the lineup as a designated hitter — although the Blue Jays signed him to play in center field.

“When it comes to the lineup stuff, it’s just (him and me),” Montoyo said. “Whenever he’s ready, we’ll talk, and if he feels better at DH in the first game, then we’ll DH him. If he feels ready to play in center field, he’ll play in center field.”

The Nationals still have several players struggling at the plate, including Josh Bell, who was 0-for-4 while batting fourth as a designated hitter on Tuesday. He is 5-for-46 on (.109) for the season with one homer and three RBIs.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Josh Bell,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It’s early. … Once it clicks, we’ll get him going, he gets on a roll. I’ve seen this guy carry his team for a month or two.”

“Things are really close,” Bell said. “So all it takes is one hit and then the floodgates can open up.”

–Field Level Media

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