Sports

Manoah shines as Blue Jays fend off Rays 5-2

TORONTO – Alek Manoah pumped his fist and let out a roar after he got Jonny DeLuca swinging on a sinker high in the strike zone for his seventh strikeout.

It was the final pitch of his best start of the season.

Manoah was superb Sunday, limiting Tampa Bay to a walk and a hit as the Toronto Blue Jays fended off the Rays 5-2 to avoid a three-game sweep. Manoah said he was already fired up when Toronto manager John Schneider sent him out for the seventh inning.

“I was like ‘Hell yeah, don’t let them down,’ so I was just super fired up,” said Manoah. “The energy from this crowd has been unbelievable so, just trying to feed off all that and just let my emotions go freely there.”

Manoah (1-1) dropped his earned-run average from 4.91 to 3.00 in his first win of the season. It was his second consecutive quality start after he allowed three runs — all unearned — and struck out six over seven innings in Toronto’s 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on May 12.

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The two solid outings may signal a return to 2022 for Manoah. He was named to his first all-star team that season and finished with a 16-7 record, a 2.24 ERA and 180 strikeouts to finish third in Cy Young Award voting.

But Manoah was one of baseballs slowest pitchers in 2022, taking an average of 20.7 seconds between pitches with the bases empty and 24.8 seconds between pitches with runners on base. He struggled through 2023 with a 3-9 record, 5.87 ERA and 79 Ks, pitching less than half as many innings.

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Some speculated that adjusting to the new pitch clock was the culprit for the disappointing season.


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“He notoriously worked pretty slow before the rules came in last year,” said Schneider. “I think it took a little bit of time for him to get used to it, for sure, but it’s a credit to him for figuring it out.”

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Manoah said pitching quickly has actually become one of his tools.

“The less time I spend out there the more time our offence is at the plate,” said Manoah. “Pitching is like a boxing match. When our offence is out there they’re wearing that guy down.

“It’s my job to get back in the dugout and get that offence back out there to keep wearing him down.”

It was Manoah’s first win since a 7-3 victory in Boston on Aug. 4 after he began his season on the injured list with shoulder soreness. The 26-year-old right-hander said he didn’t care about improving his win-loss record.

“I think it’s huge for this team,” said Manoah, noting Tampa is a divisional rival. “Don’t want nobody to come in our house and sweep us.

“The biggest thing was going out there and setting the tone and getting a big win and get this thing rolling.”

Daniel Vogelbach was 3-for-4 at the plate, including a solo home run, as Toronto (20-25) snapped a three-game losing skid. Alejandro Kirk had a two-run double and George Springer added an RBI double.

Trevor Richards, Zach Pop of Brampton, Ont., and Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., came out of the Blue Jays bullpen, with Pop giving up two runs in the ninth.

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Aaron Civale (2-4) allowed five runs — four earned — on six hits and four walks for Tampa Bay (25-23), striking out three over 5 1/3 innings. Manuel Rodriguez and Phil Maton came on in relief.

Isaac Paredes hit a two-run homer for the Rays with two outs in the ninth to end the shutout.

Vogelbach opened the scoring in the second inning, smashing his first home run of the season 394 feet over the centre-field wall.

It was only Vogelbach’s 38th at bat of the season, as the 31-year-old veteran designated hitter has been used sparingly after signing a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays on Feb. 16. Sunday’s performance improved his batting average 63 points, finishing the day at .171.

“Over the course of the season it takes everybody and you never know when it’s your night is to contribute,” said Vogelbach. “You just put your head down you go to work and if you do that and come to the field every day things will work out.”

Toronto added two more runs in the fourth.

Springer hit bounced a double off the wall to score Vogelbach from second. Paredes bobbled what looked like a surefire groundout to third by Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the next at bat. As the ball dribbled into foul territory Springer rounded third and sprinted home and Kiner-Falefa reached first comfortably on the error.

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Kirk added to that lead in the sixth when his double scored Vogelbach and Springer for a 5-0 Blue Jays advantage.

Pop recorded two outs to start the ninth but Jonathan Aranda reached base after his groundout to first withstood a video challenge. That brought Paredes to the plate, who launched his ninth homer of the season to make it 5-2.

After Pop walked Richie Palacious, Romano came to the mound to get the game’s final out and his seventh save of the season.

ON DECK — Jose Berríos (4-3) gets the start as the Blue Jays open up a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox on Monday afternoon.

Erick Fedde (4-0) will take the mound for Chicago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2024.

&copy 2024 The Canadian Press

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