TORONTO. The unstoppable Yankees faced the unstoppable Alec Manoa Saturday afternoon at Rogers Center, but even the best Blue Jays weren’t enough.
A victory over Manoa in Toronto should count for two wins. The 24-year-old star started the day 10-0 at home, making the 4-0 defeat his first at home. Manoa had a brilliant season as a sophomore, earning All-Star and Cy Young honors early, but when a team is as tough as those Yankees, nothing else matters.
Manoa’s season went almost without errors. He was a lock for six-plus innings, allowing two more earned runs just once in his first 12 starts. Saturday was a rare occasion that Manoa can learn from, though, after he allowed four runs on six hits and one 5 1/3 inning walk to the top team in baseball.
There is nothing to be ashamed of, especially for a young novice whose mindset is like a gas pedal glued to the floor. However, Manoj did not want to give credit to the other side. He believes in his team, saying the Blue Jays are still where they should be.
“I just think that if I go out and execute, attack the zone and compete, I will give my team a chance to compete every time,” Manoa said, keeping it short after losing.
After the first innings, it took Manoa 33 innings to get past the fourth, loading up the bases as he battled a hitting zone that didn’t endear itself to the Blue Jays dugout. It was then that Aaron Hicks cleared the base with a three-run double that we almost never see from Manoa.
“Honestly, a lot of calls didn’t go to him today,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He had to fight a little harder this time. It happens in baseball, but I can say that some calls did not go to him. He’s probably had to fight harder this inning.”
As a result, Montoyo was expelled due to disagreement with the zone. As he argued with home court umpire Ryan Additon, he turned his attention to first base umpire Ryan Wills and was quickly thrown out as Manoa, equally flushed, was by his side.
“The moment I go there, it’s to protect my pitcher,” Montoyo said. “Just like I did with Vladi. No one messes with my Manoah.”
“I never want anyone to get kicked out, especially for something they are right about,” Manoa said. “I appreciated that he went to fight for our team. Not just for me, but for everyone.”
Nine times out of 10, Manoa walks the tightrope better than any other Toronto pitcher. This season, he danced away from danger dozens of times, not only due to luck, but also due to talent and a sense of the moment. However, even the best of them fail, and there will be days when Manoa will be on the other side of these important moments.
It was moments like this that the Blue Jays learned to trust Manoa, and he deserved every inch of that trust. He’s owned the Yankees up to this point, so he could be Toronto’s first-game starter if the postseason starts tomorrow. Luckily for the Blue Jays, the Blue Jays still have half a season to close the gap between them and the Yankees, who are clearly on a different level right now.
Of course, Manoah could be perfect, and it still wouldn’t matter.
The Toronto roster was held back by just five hits from a strong Yankees pitcher, and the New York bullpen proved to be the advantage again. Saturday’s defeat follows an uneven 12-3 loss in the first match of the series, and things don’t quite get any easier on Sunday when a struggling Yusei Kikuchi takes the mound in an attempt to avoid a hook.
It’s almost a compliment to Manoa that such a start, when he was one step away from another strong exit, is considered bad. There will be many more such challenges in the future, and certainly a much worse start than this, but Manoa has always been distinguished by his ability to learn quickly and bounce back from adversity rather than sinking into it.
Living in East Alabama requires Manoa to have a mindset that continues to evolve as he experiences more first events, such as this rare trip against New York.