Manoah looking to build momentum as Jays aim to avoid sweep vs. Rays

Toronto Blue Jays announcer Dan Shulman joins Jays Talk Plus to discuss Alek Manoah's strong showing on the mound against the Minnesota Twins which saw him strike out six bats and what positives there are to build on.

With the Toronto Blue Jays on the verge of a sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, they’re giving the ball to Alek Manoah in hopes that he can build on his excellent performance from last Sunday.

The 26-year-old right-hander hasn’t posted back-to-back quality starts since September 2022, when he finished the regular season with a pair of scoreless outings against the Rays and Boston Red Sox.

Of course, since then, things haven’t gone the way many have hoped for Manoah. The 2022 Cy Young finalist struggled so badly that he needed to be optioned to the minor leagues twice in 2023, and a shoulder injury forced him back to the minors to open the 2024 campaign.

However, after making his return to the Blue Jays with an uneven performance against the Washington Nationals on May 5, Manoah delivered seven innings without allowing an earned run against the Minnesota Twins a week ago.

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“I felt great,” he said following the start. “I was able to mix in all my pitches and was attacking really well except for the one walk. I feel like everything was working.”

Manoah threw 55 of his 78 pitches for strikes, tossing 30 fastballs, 19 changeups, 15 sinkers and 14 sliders. He topped out at 95.3 m.p.h. with his fastball and generated 15 total whiffs.

While Toronto ended up losing 5-1, thanks to a seventh-inning error before a three-run homer by Carlos Santana, the story of the day was Manoah’s return to form.

“I know there’s a lot of outside noise, but I work my tail off every day and I have great support from every guy in that clubhouse,” the six-foot-six hurler said. “I know they believe in me, so it’s just about going out there and doing it.”

So as he looks to build off that start Sunday afternoon against Tampa Bay, Manoah will be tasked with shutting down a Rays offence that contributed to his disappointing 2023.

In two starts against the Rays, he allowed 11 earned runs over 7.2 innings while walking nine batters. Before those two outings, Manoah had dominated Toronto’s division rival, allowing just seven earned runs over 44.1 innings, striking out 53 Tampa Bay hitters.

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The Blue Jays are keeping Davis Schneider in the leadoff spot and George Springer in the six-hole after making the long-anticipated move on Saturday. They also have Daniel Vogelbach slotting in as the designated hitter for Justin Turner to face Rays right-hander Aaron Civale.

Toronto dropped the first two games of the series by one run. On Friday, they were held without a baserunner through seven perfect innings by lefty Tyler Alexander, and on Saturday, Nate Pearson gave up a two-run homer and the lead in the eighth inning.

You can watch as Manoah and the Blue Jays look to avoid the sweep against the Rays on Sportsnet and Sportsnet+. Coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. ET / 10:30 a.m. PT.

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