TORONTO — When the Toronto Blue Jays kept Baltimore off the board in the top of the 10th inning, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., was not expecting to get a chance to lead off in the bottom half of the frame.
With Bo Bichette on second base as the automatic runner and first base open, the Orioles decided to pitch to the Toronto slugger.
Guerrero made them pay with a sharp RBI single for a 7-6 walkoff victory at Rogers Centre.
"I thought I was going to get the walk," Guerrero said via a translator. "But when I saw that they were pitching to me, I was like 'Well, the game is over right here.'"
Guerrero lashed a 99-m.p.h. fastball from Felix Bautista (2-2) into left field for the first walkoff hit of his big-league career. It was his fourth hit of the night.
"He's (been) doing OK but we're waiting for the MVP-type Vlad Guerrero to show up and he showed up today for sure," said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. "It's great to see because we (all) know that if he gets going, he can carry this team."
Guerrero said he started to tinker with his mental approach last weekend and has been focusing more on enjoying the game.
It's paying off with results.
Guerrero hit one of three Toronto homers on Wednesday — Teoscar Hernandez and Matt Chapman had the others — and scored three times. Guerrero has gone 13-for-27 (. 481) at the plate over his last six games.
In the top half of the 10th inning, the Orioles moved Kyle Stowers to third base on a sacrifice bunt but he was left stranded when sidearmer Adam Cimber (7-2) struck out Ryan McKenna and got Cedric Mullins to pop up.
The Blue Jays had an early five-run lead and appeared on their way to a comfortable win after a strong seven-inning start from Jose Berrios.
But the Orioles charged back with a three-run eighth inning against reliever Yimi Garcia, with Ryan Mountcastle tying it with his second homer of the game.
Adley Rutschman also homered for the Orioles, who will try to salvage a split of the four-game series on Thursday afternoon.
Toronto (37-25) has won 15 of its last 20 games. The Orioles (27-37) have one victory in their last nine meetings against the Blue Jays.
Toronto opened the scoring in the first inning after Guerrero reached on a flare that dropped in shallow centre field, just out of the reach of second baseman Rougned Odor. Guerrero scored from first base on an Alejandro Kirk double.
A pair of two-run shots came in the fourth as Hernandez crushed a 2-1 pitch from Bruce Zimmermann into the second deck — a 461-foot blast — and Chapman followed two batters later with a 411-foot shot of his own.
Berrios set down the first 10 Orioles in order until he hit Austin Hays with a pitch in the fourth inning. Rutschman delivered Baltimore's first hit with a two-run homer, the first of his big-league career.
Guerrero's team-leading 16th home run was a solo shot in the fifth inning. Zimmermann was pulled after giving up a two-out single to Santiago Espinal, who had two of Toronto's 13 hits.
Berrios, meanwhile, retired eight straight batters until giving up a Mountcastle moon shot in the seventh that hit the facing of the 500 level. Only 22 home runs have reached the 500 level stands since the stadium opened in 1989.
The Toronto starter allowed three hits and three earned runs. He had eight strikeouts and didn't walk a batter.
Garcia gave up an RBI double to Hays and Mountcastle followed with his 12th homer of the year to pull the Orioles even.
Closer Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., pitched a clean ninth inning for Toronto and Jorge Lopez worked a 1-2-3 bottom half for the Orioles. Announced attendance was 19,961 and the game took two hours 53 minutes to play.
Canadian men's soccer captain Atiba Hutchinson threw the ceremonial first pitch before the game.
The 39-year-old native of Brampton, Ont., helped the national team qualify for this year's World Cup in Qatar. It will be Canada's first appearance at the tournament since 1986.
Right-handers will square off in the series finale. Kevin Gausman (5-5, 2.67 ERA) will start for Toronto against Tyler Wells (3-4, 3.86).
The Blue Jays will wrap up their seven-game homestand with a weekend series against the New York Yankees starting Friday night.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2022.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press