TORONTO — Alek Manoah had the best outing of his season on Saturday afternoon, allowing just one run over eight innings. The Toronto Blue Jays pitcher wanted more though, and thought he deserved a chance at a complete game since he had only thrown 83 pitches.
Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo disagreed.
The two had an animated conversation in Toronto’s dugout as closer Jordan Romano came out of the bullpen, with pitching coach Pete Walker trying to smooth things over between Manoah and Montoyo.
Romano, from nearby Markham, Ont., got three quick strikeouts for his 14th save and the Blue Jays earned a 3-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds. After the game Manoah said that there were no hurt feelings.
“I think (Montoyo) understands how competitive I am,” said Manoah (5-1), who gave up seven hits and struck out four. “Me as a competitor, I’m just doing my job. It’s not every day you get to go do something like that.
“But we’ve got the best closer in baseball. He’s doing his job and protecting me and we’ll keep moving forward.”
Montoyo loved seeing Manoah’s passion — even if it was directed at him.
“I love the kid,” he said. “It could be in the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, whenever, he never wants to come out and that’s why he’s so good.”
Montoyo said that having Romano, who is tied with Milwaukee closer Josh Hader for second-most saves in Major League Baseball behind San Diego reliever Taylor Rogers (15), made his decision easy.
“I’ve got the best closer in baseball,” said Montoyo.
Outfielder George Springer also spoke to Manoah after the heated discussion, a gesture that Montoyo appreciated.
“We all get along, all these kids get along, that’s what I love about our team,” said Montoyo. “We’re a tight club and that’s beautiful that guys talk to each other whenever, at any time.”
Bo Bichette hit two home runs, including the go-ahead two-run shot, to lead Toronto’s (22-18) offence. They were the 50th and 51st homers of the 24-year-old shortstop’s career.
“I never knew that 50 was a milestone, so I’m grateful,” laughed Bichette. “I’m grateful to be able to be here and to have an opportunity to hit home runs in the major leagues.”
Blue Jays second baseman Santiago Espinal stretched his career-best hit streak to 14 games, tied for the longest active streak in MLB.
Joey Votto, who grew up in Toronto, opened the scoring with an RBI double for Cincinnati (11-28). Hunter Greene earned a no-decision, despite striking out six and allowing one run on four hits over six innings. Luis Cessa and Jeff Hoffman came on in relief, with Cessa (2-1) taking the loss.
Manoah played some sharp defence in the fourth when Reds left-fielder Tommy Pham had a broken-bat comebacker go directly to the burly pitcher. Manoah then casually tossed the ball to third baseman Matt Chapman to force out TJ Friedl for an easy double play.
Votto, in the next at bat, doubled down the first-base line to drive in Tyler Naquin for a 1-0 lead.
Bichette led off the bottom of the inning with a 392-foot home run, his fifth of the season.
Espinal kept his hit streak alive with a single in the sixth inning. His 14 consecutive games with a hit matched Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert for the third-longest streak of 2022.
St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt also extended his hit streak to 14 games on Saturday.
Raimel Tapia singled in the seventh inning and advanced to third on George Springer’s hit to centre field. Springer tried to stretch it into a double but was called out at second base. The 39,393 fans at Rogers Centre loudly booed the ensuing video review but the call on the field stood.
That brought Bichette to the plate, and he wasted no time putting the first pitch he saw from Cessa into the second deck to give the Blue Jays a 3-1 lead.
Toronto has struggled with the long ball in May, with Bichette’s home runs only the 10th and 11th by the Blue Jays in the past three weeks.
“That’s just the goal every day: to come out here and try to get a win,” said Bichette about driving in all three of Toronto’s runs.
Romano struck out Pham, Votto and Tyler Stephenson for a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
NEXT UP — Yusei Kikuchi (2-1) will take the mound as the Blue Jays close out their series with the Reds. Kikuchi is coming off of one of his best outings of the season, when he allowed only one hit over six innings with six strikeouts. Graham Ashcraft will make his MLB debut for Cincinnati. Connor Overton (1-0) was scratched from his scheduled start with a sore back.