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Guerrero Jr. draws praise with lengthy battle against Yankees closer

There were a handful of Toronto Blue Jays fans left feeling salty when the lineup was posted for Sunday’s series finale against the New York Yankees. Phenom third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was not a part of the starting nine, his second scheduled day off of the week after he sat out Wednesday’s tilt against the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Despite not being on the posted lineup to start the game, Guerrero Jr. did end up making an appearance on Sunday when the drama was at its highest. With the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead in the 9th inning and the game-tying run on first, Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo called on the 20-year-old to take the most important at-bat of the game.

The Yankees called on closer Aroldis Chapman to shut the door, setting up a power-vs-power showdown as one of the hardest throwing pitchers in the game faced a blossoming hitting talent.

The resulting at-bat lived up to the billing.

The 13-pitch marathon included seven foul balls, one of which landed just outside the foul pole deep into the 500 level of the outfield.

(via BaseballSavant)

In the end, the veteran fireballer Chapman won the battle, getting a crucial double play ball to add to his American League lead with a 31st save on the season.

“I’ve never seen someone hit a double play ball and get a standing ovation by the fans,” said Montoyo after the game. “That at-bat by Vladdy against the best closer in the league was awesome to watch.”

“Good tension, you know. That's obviously, in a lot of ways, the ball game there,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone echoed. “In a very well-played, 1-0 game you've got a young, rising, great-looking hitter against the game's dominant closer. It was a great match to watch those two guys go at it.”

The two managers weren’t the only ones heaping the praise on the youngster’s mettle in such a big spot. One of the most clutch hitters of all time recognized the beauty of the battle:

When you get Reggie Jackson’s attention in a clutch at-bat against the Yankees, you know you’re doing something right. The Yankees closed out the game to earn a split of the four-game series, but the Blue Jays bats flashed a vision of a competitive future between the two American League East rivals.

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