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Vlad Guerrero Jr. road show continues as Blue Jays rookie clobbers game-winning homer


CHICAGO – Life on the road as a big league baseball player is treating Vlad Guerrero Jr. rather well.

Charter planes. Five star hotels. And a hitting display that was arguably good enough to be named the American League player of the week.

The 20-year-old Blue Jays rookie unleashed his power yet again on Sunday, belting a two-run, game-winning homer in the top of the eighth inning.

It gave the Jays a 5-2 win over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field and capped an excellent six-game road swing through San Francisco and the Windy City.

Guerrero hit two homers in each venue giving him four on the season and a tie for fourth among AL rookies. In his last eight games, Vlad Jr. has hit .370 has four homers and nine of his 10 RBI. Perhaps most impressively, he’s struck out just two times in that stretch.

The pitch he clobbered on Sunday traveled an estimated 395 feet deep to left field and exited at 101 miles per hour. It also made up for what was shaping up as a sleepy afternoon at the plate as the Jays were able to get a split of the four-game series on Chicago’s South Side.

Though he didn’t get credited with the win, rookie Jays starter Trent Thornton gave his team a solid six innings and held the Sox to one run on just three hits. He exited with the game tied at 1-1, setting the stage for Guerrero’s latest entry into the highlight reel.

Guerrero and the Jays return to Toronto for a seven-game homestand starting with a Victoria Day matinée vs. the World Series champion Boston Red Sox. Though there was some moaning about his modest early production at the plate, Guerrero is showing signs of complete comfort now.

Those who are in close quarters with Guerrero were confident that it would merely be a matter of time before his production started to skyrocket.

“We’re not lying when we say the quality of his at-bats has gotten good,” Jays director of baseball operations, Mike Murov, said earlier in this trip. “That’s a big thing that we’re watching – trying to be process oriented and not just results oriented. Even when he’s not hitting bombs, he’s having productive at-bats.”

Next up for the Vlad Show: The Rogers Centre.

GAME ON

Danny Jansen put on another show for family and friends with a two-run homer in the ninth. It was the second of the season and second of the series for the Elmhurst, Ill., native and upped the Jays lead to 5-2.

– The Jays got on the board first when Billy McKinney lined his third homer of the season over the right-field wall. McKinney had a chance to open the game up in the fourth with the bases loaded and two out but went down swinging.

– Thornton didn’t allow a hit until the fourth, a leadoff triple to Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada.

COMING UP ACES

Marcus Stroman may not have had much run support this season, thus he has a 1-6 win-loss record. The ERA of 2.95 speaks much louder, however, and Stroman vows that he has a big season in him.

“I think I’m going to get better,” Stroman said. “I know where I’m going to be at the end of the year. I’m normally a second-half pitcher.

“I’m going to continue to get better and continue to get stronger. I wasn’t lying when I said I felt good in spring training. I’m just looking forward to the rest of this year.”

Good health willing, Stroman feels he can hit 35 starts and once again hit the 200-innings pitched mark.

“I hope to keep my team in position to win each and every time out,” Stroman said of the lack of run support he’s had from the Jays bats. “That’s the nay thing I can focus on. The rest will take care of itself.”

KNUCKLING UNDER

Who knows if knuckleballer Ryan Feierabend will get another start with the Jays, but the 10 years and 236 days between big-league starts was the ninth-longest in MLB history.

And Feierabend chuckles at the memory of the previous one when he was with Seattle and pitching against the Anaheim Angels and one Vladimir Guerrero Sr.

“It’s kind of crazy,” the 33-year-old left-hander said following Saturday’s 4-1 rain-delayed loss. “I had this conversation with the guys in spring training, not only Guerrero but at one point I played against Cavan Biggio’s dad (Craig) and Kacy Clemens’ dad (Roger.) To have these guys here is great.”

Even though he only pitched four innings on Saturday before the game was called due to rain, Feierabend was credited with a complete game, the first of his career. It was also the first complete game by a Jays starter in more than 25 months, albeit on a technicality.

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