Gurriel delivers late to help Blue Jays make most of latest Manoah magic

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The 29th start of Alek Manoah’s fledgling career came on the one-year anniversary of his major league debut, and to contextualize just how remarkable his performance has been since, consider that he’s only participated only nine minor league games. before his promotion.

The cancellation of the 2020 minor league season due to COVID-19 is partly to blame, of course, but that only adds to the uniqueness of its trajectory. While it’s easy to call him a unicorn, as he is in so many ways, the Toronto Blue Jays can also learn broader lessons from his rapid rise.

“Maybe it will change how some guys progress with the high performance group and how we watch guys now,” pitching coach Pete Walker said. “There’s no more cookie cutters, that’s what you have to do in the minor leagues. If someone is physically ready, bouncing back, showing signs of being able to handle a workload, then those guys can be pushed a bit more. If anything came from Alek’s situation, it would be this.

Food for thought, certainly, given some of the big arms the Blue Jays currently have in A-ball, and as Manoah continues to cement himself among the best young starters in the game. Friday night’s 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels was the latest demonstration of both how far we’ve come and how further development can still take it to another level.

“I don’t even know sometimes,” he replied when asked to understand how quickly he acclimated to the majors. “Whether it’s a good outing or a bad one, just move on to the next one and try to build on the last one, keep improving and win ball games.”

The Blue Jays have done a lot with the 24-year-old on the mound, as they are now 6-3 in his starts this year and 22-7 since his arrival.

If he finds a way to even out his gaps – he started the night with right-handers hitting .111/.146/.211 against him against .284/.351/.386 for left-handers – he will be even harder with opponents.

Friday’s outing went along those lines as the Angels’ five left-handed hitters/switchers were responsible for all three runs, two of which were earned, against Manoah.

Andrew Velazquez conceded Luis Rengifo, who singled and took second on an error by Raimel Tapia in the second, Jared Walsh hit a solo shot in the third and Tyler Wade led the fifth with his first homer of the season, as the lefties went a combined 6 for 14. Meanwhile, righties Taylor Ward, Mike Trout, Max Stassi and Juan Lagares were 1 for 12 with eight strikeouts.

Most of the damage came on fastballs, with the exception of Walsh’s homer, which happened on a midfield change – a deal that was a focal point for Manoah. Approaching the exit, the southpaws were batting just .235 against the pitch but hitting it at a clip of .471, underscoring both the potential and the risk. His slider, so devastating against right-handers, was hitting at a rate of 0.300/0.500 against left-handers while his lead was 0.462/0.462, though that’s also a work in progress that could turn into an equalizer if he was constantly exploited.

When asked if he had anything in the works for left-handed hitters, Manoah smiled and said, “Yeah, but I’m not going to tell you that. But it’s coming. »

A low, wide lead from Walsh helped Manoah get a critical takedown in the fifth with help from Bo Bichette.

Trout doubled with one out in the inning and took third when Lourdes Gurriel Jr. pitched to uncovered second base with the Blue Jays in an outfield at four and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. covering late. Then, with the infield, Bichette lined up a 109.1 mph Walsh pitch and pitched home Alejandro Kirk, who tagged Trout at home plate.

He was initially called safe but the replay overruled the call.

“It was a great play from Bichette who made the pitch and a great tag from Kirky,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “It was a big play in the game.”

Gurriel tied the game 2-2 in the first half of the fifth with a brace, his first RBI since May 14. A Matt Chapman RBI single in the seventh tied the game 3-3 and Gurriel delivered a single in the ninth which was caught by Lagares on the right, allowing Kirk to score the go-ahead in the ninth.

Led by Gurriel, the Blue Jays’ last four batters combined for nine hits, the type of outing they had long lacked.

“Yeah, definitely,” he said through performer Hector Lebron. “It’s not the same when you have three guys doing pretty much everything – Vladdy, Bo, (George) Springer – and then if we don’t score there, OK, now we have to wait until they strike again. It’s very difficult. Now that everyone is doing their part, it’s of course less stress for everyone, less pressure.

Jordan Romano then hit the side in the ninth, getting pinched hitter Shohei Ohtani swinging on a 96.5 mph warmer over the zone for the final as the Blue Jays won for the seventh time in the Last 10 games after a long slip.

Manoah, as he usually is when he takes the mound, was front and center again, a year after he burst onto the scene with a gem at Yankee Stadium.

“I talked to my mom a bit about it this morning and kind of reflected on the year we’ve had,” he said, “and super grateful, super blessed for everything we’ve had. we were able to do and super excited about what’s to come.

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