The Toronto Blue Jays cruised past the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night by a score of 8-1, chiefly because of Alek Manoah's dominant outing (8 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 10 SO, 0 BB) and Teoscar Hernández's five-hit night. Playing a supporting role was first baseman Vladimir Guerrero, who in the sixth inning incinerated an Adam Conley fastball for his 45th home run of the season:
That one left the bat at 113.9 mph and the left the park in roughly a blink-and-a-half of the eye.
Notably, home run No. 45 for Guerrero puts him in sole possession of the MLB lead in that category. Coming into Monday, he'd been tied with Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani with 44 apiece. Not far behind is Royals catcher Salvador Pérez with 42. As MLB Stats notes, Guerrero now joins Eddie Mathews and Joe DiMaggio as the only players to hit 45 or more home runs through the first 143 games of a season at age 22 or younger.
Of course, home runs aren't the whole story for Guerrero in 2021. He's now batting .318/.407/.612 with more than 100 RBI. He also now leads his league in two of the three Triple Crown categories and is third in a third. Here's an abbreviated updated leaderboard for each of those categories:
AL home run leaders
AL batting average leaders
AL RBI leaders
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays, 45
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays, .318
José Abreu, White Sox, 107
Shohei Ohtani, Angels, 44
Salvador Pérez, Royals, 105
Salvador Pérez, Royals, 42
Michael Brantley, Astros, .315
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays, 103
Guerrero is within range of leading in all three of the necessary categories, and given that it's the middle of September, his Triple Crown status bears watchful monitoring the rest of the way. In the event that he does pull it off -- unlikely but very much within the range of possibilities -- then Guerrero would become the 19th Triple Crown winner in MLB history and the first since Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers in 2012. Guerrero would become the youngest ever to achieve the rare feat. At present, Ty Cobb, who won the Triple Crown in 1909, is the youngest. Cobb was also 22 that year, but Guerrero is his junior by roughly three months.
More to the point, Guerrero and the rest of the Blue Jays offense has of late powered the team into playoff position. They'll look to stay there as Guerrero's Triple Crown bid takes further shape.