Blue Jays look to keep rolling behind rejuvenated Alek Manoah against Tigers

Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith joins Jays Talk Plus with Blake Murphy to talk about how Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah can take advantage of the Detroit Tigers' lighter offence and build on his recent success.

The power will hopefully be back at Comerica Park on Friday as the Toronto Blue Jays look for just their second three-game winning streak of the 2024 season.

That statement can apply to the electricity at the ballpark and also the Blue Jays offence, which slugged three home runs and seven extra-base hits on the way to a series-opening 9-1 win over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night.

Toronto was originally tasked with facing starter Matt Manning, but Detroit optioned the six-foot-six righty to triple-A Friday afternoon and reinstated Kenta Maeda from the 15-day injured list, who will now start Friday’s game.

Last July, Manning and relievers Jason Foley and Alex Lange combined to no-hit the Blue Jays.

Toronto’s offence has started to come around in the past week, scoring nine runs in three of its last four games. Of course, the level of competition hasn’t quite been the same as the Blue Jays were used to facing after owning the toughest schedule in baseball entering the week.

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However, results are results, and Toronto has gotten them from up and down its roster. Most notably, the top of the Blue Jays lineup has been producing.

Bo Bichette is 9-for-16 this week with four extra-base hits, Daulton Varsho has two home runs and a triple, Danny Jansen is five-for-12 with a trio of extra-base hits and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. slugged a double and home run in Thursday’s win.

“It’s been nice to see the home runs, and it’s been nice to see the doubles,” manager John Schneider said to Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith post-game. “And it’s the usual characters that are getting going, in Bo and Vlad. You could kind of get used to this.”

Toronto’s bats aren’t the only thing looking to stay hot on Friday, as Alek Manoah will make his fourth start of the season, entering play with a 0.00 ERA over his last two starts.

On Sunday, Manoah carved the Tampa Bay Rays to the tune of seven strikeouts over seven innings, allowing just one hit and one walk while tossing 103 pitches and 69 strikes.

The 26-year-old earned his first MLB win since August and built on an encouraging second start off the injured list from May 12 against the Minnesota Twins.

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Manoah has been using his entire arsenal to find success, including a changeup that he’s throwing a career-high 13 per cent of the time.

Of course, Manoah’s bread-and-butter has always been his slider, and that pitch being a legitimate weapon could help the right-hander find the consistent success at the major-league level that eluded him in 2023.

“A ton of confidence in that pitch right now,” Manoah told Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi of the slider, which generated five whiffs on 13 swings against the Rays. “And biggest thing is really not thinking about the vertical or the horizontal on it or anything, just kind of reading swings and manipulating it towards those swings. It’s just being able to attack with it and trust it and whatever happens, happens.”

Last season, Manoah had a mixed bag against Detroit in two starts. His first game in Toronto’s home opener, when he allowed three runs and five walks over 4.1 innings, relying on a a strong performance from the offence and bullpen for the team to come away with a win.

His second start came in Detroit, marking his MLB return after being demoted. He pitched well in that outing, punching out eight with no walks while allowing just one run over 6.0 innings.

You can watch as Manoah and the Blue Jays take on the Tigers on Friday on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet+, starting at 6:30 p.m. ET / 3:30 p.m. PT.

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