DETROIT – When rookie slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. came to the plate with the bases loaded, there was an air of anticipation at Comerica Park.
Toronto and Detroit are a combined 60 games under .500, but this was still a moment to remember.
Guerrero hit his first career grand slam, a 441-foot drive toward the bushes that helped the Blue Jays rally for a 7-5 victory over the Tigers on Saturday night. The home run erased a 5-1 deficit in the fifth, and Brandon Drury added a two-run shot an inning later to put Toronto ahead.
“It was a good pitch to hit,” Guerrero said through a translator. “He gave me my pitch, and I hit it pretty good.”
Niko Goodrum and John Hicks went deep for the Tigers, who are 7-33 since the start of June. Goodrum’s two-run homer in the second gave Detroit a 3-1 lead, but a 59-minute rain delay in the fourth knocked out both starting pitchers.
Wilmer Font (2-0) came on in the bottom of the fourth and gave up a two-run homer to Hicks that put the Tigers up by four, but Gregory Soto (0-4) quickly gave away the advantage. Toronto loaded the bases in the fifth, then Guerrero hit his home run a bit to the left of straightaway centre.
“That’s a strong young man,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I think Soto was trying to get that on the outer corner but he left it over the middle and you saw where that young fellow hit it. I think they’ve got a good one there, but I don’t think they need me to tell them.”
It was the ninth major league homer for Guerrero, who had three hits in a win Friday and two more on Saturday.
“That’s the Vladdy that we know,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “That’s what he can do, and that’s what we’re waiting for, everybody was waiting for. He’s looking good at the plate now.”
Guerrero came into the year as one of the game’s top prospects, but his debut season has been uneven. He’s hitting .249 with an OPS of .729.
“He’s 20 years old, and he’s going to have his ups and downs, but he’s always going to find a way to smile,” Montoyo said. “That’s just who he is.”
Guerrero said he already had the ball from his grand slam, and indicated he would give it to his Hall of Fame father.
Drury’s homer gave the Blue Jays the lead, and the Tigers didn’t score again off the Toronto bullpen. Ken Giles struck out three in the ninth for his 14th save in 15 chances.
Detroit has lost 27 of its last 30 home games that were played to completion. There was a suspended game May 19 — and the Tigers were losing that one, too.
Detroit lefty Daniel Norris allowed a run and five hits in four innings before the rain delay.
“I always pitch quick, but we all knew the rain was coming, so I was even faster than usual,” Norris said. “I think it helped me, because I was really in a groove after those first two batters, but we could see it coming. In my last inning, you could even feel it in the wind.”
Toronto starter Trent Thornton yielded four runs in three-plus innings.
This was Font’s first appearance for Toronto since being acquired in a trade with the Mets. His record is 3-2 overall this season, including his National League work.
The Tigers optioned RHP Zac Reininger to Triple-A Toledo after the game.
Tigers: Before the game, Detroit put RHP Spencer Turnbull on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Thursday, with an upper back strain. The Tigers recalled Soto from Toledo. … RHP Michael Fulmer, out for the season after elbow reconstruction, was in the clubhouse before the game. He said he wanted to pay his teammates a visit, but he’s still just trying to build strength while recovering from his injury. Fulmer said he might be able to play catch in October or November.
Blue Jays: Jacob Waguespack (1-0) takes the mound Sunday when Toronto tries for a three-game sweep.
Tigers: Had not announced a starter for the series finale.
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