Alek Manoah took the mound tonight looking to restore West Virginia’s honour after Pitt beat his Mountaineers last night in the 105th edition of The Backyard Brawl, one of college football’s oldest, fiercest, and best named rivalry games. (And also needing a win as the Jays cling to the third wildcard by their fingernails). He dominated, and in spite of some signature 2022 Blue Jays ineptitude with runners in scoring position the game never looked like it was in much doubt.
Johan Oviedo got the start for Pittsburgh. His stuff looked very good, and he struck out 4 of the 14 batters he faced, but he didn’t have much in the way of command, walking 3 and requiring 77 pitches to get through three innings. He was effective, though, allowing just one hit (a Vladimir Guerrero jr. line single in the third) and no runs.
Former Jays draft pick Tyler Beede took over in the fourth. Beede was the team’s first round pick in 2011 but turned down over $2m to honour his commitment to Vanderbilt. It worked out OK, Alex Anthopolous used the compensation pick the next year to land Marcus Stroman. Matt Chapman lead off with a grounder over the third base bag that went into the corner for a double. Chapman advanced to third on a Cavan Biggio single chopped to second base, and they both scored on a Santiago Espinal line drive double. After a George Springer groundout advanced Espinal to third, Vladimir Guerrero jr. was hit in the jersey to put runners on the corners for the second time that inning. It looked like the Jays attempted a double steal, with Vlad making it safely to second, but Espinal didn’t go. That cost the Jays a run, as Oneil Cruz made an amazing throw on a Teoscar Hernandez grounder into the hole at short to get him at first and end the inning.
That was all the Jays would get for a while. Bo Bichette hit a liner in the fifth that dropped, but he was gunned down by left fielder Tucupita Marcano trying to stretch it into a double. In the sixth, Espinal reached on a single, but was thrown out stealing second for the team’s second base-running blunder of the night.
Also in the sixth, Pittsburgh star third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes was subbed out for Kevin Newman, apparently due to shoulder pain. It didn’t end up mattering tonight, but the loss of Hayes’ phenomenal glove work would be a blow to the Pirates for the rest of the series.
The Pirates replaced an almost Jays prospect with a former Jays prospect, Chase de Jong in the 7th. De Jong went to the Dodgers back in 2015 for international bonus pool money that ended up allowing the Jays to sign Vlad, so another one that worked out pretty well. He worked a clean seventh, getting three non-threatening pop ups. In the eight, he gave up a line drive double to Bo Bichette and walked Matt Chapman (Champan’s third of the night) on a wild pitch that also moved Bo to third. The Jays nearly made yet another serious base running mistake at this point. Bo took off for home, in what looked like a suicide squeeze attempt, put Espinal pulled back his bunt attempt on a slider down and away. Luckily, because it was a tough pitch to field, Bo was able to get back. Espinal ended up walking, but a Bradley strikeout and a Springer fly out stranded the bases loaded.
The offence finally got some insurance on the board in the ninth, facing Yohan Ramirez. Ramirez struck out Vlad and Hernandez but walked Alejandro Kirk. Bichette launched one over the wall in left-centre to put the Jays up 4-0.
Alek Manoah was in full control tonight. He gave up a little hard contact, including a liner high off the right field wall in the second that Jackie Bradly jr. made a great play on to hold Jack Suwinski to a single. He also walked a batter in that inning and surrendered a leadoff double in the third to nine hitter Tyler Heineman. That was about it, though. He cruised through the next three innings, retiring 12 in a row at one point. He was finally lifted with one out in the eighth after giving up a ground ball single (also to Heineman). His final line was 7.1IP, 5H, 1BB, 6K. You can’t ask for more than that. He benefited from some slick glove work behind him, especially a couple of very nice plays by Espinal in the sixth, but didn’t need much help.
Tim Mayza finished off the eigth, coming in to strike out Oneil Cruz and Rodolfo Castro in order. He looked sharp, dispatching the two batters in nine total pitches.
Up 4-0, the Jays turned to Adam Cimber to tie it off. Cimber Struck out Brian Reynolds and got fly outs form Suwinski and Newman.
Jays of the Day: Manoah (0.427) and Matt Chapman (0.106) had the number. Bo somehow didn’t (0.051), but was a triple shy of the cycle so I’m giving it to him. I’ll round up on Tim Mayza (0.098) too, since he had to face the tying run at the plat and dominated.
Suckage: Bradley (-0.109) was the only one with the number, and he did what he’s paid for on defence, which WPA doesn’t measure, so he doesn’t really deserve it.
The Blue Jays will go with a bullpen day tomorrow, probably featuring Yusei Kikuchi and Casey Lawrence in some kind of tandem start. Pittsburgh will turn to fire-breathing rookie Roansy Contreras. First pitch is slated for 6:35pm ET.