The Blue Jays may have seen the last of Alek Manoah as the team began its final home stand before the post-season kicks into gear.
Whether the Blue Jays are home in the best-of-three wild card series or somewhere on the road is yet to be determined.
What has been made abundantly clear is that Manoah must be on the mound when the playoffs begin.
If needed, Manoah is lined up to pitch in the season’s final game with the operative word being needed.
If the finale in Baltimore carries any home-field repercussions, turning to Manoah is a no-brainer.
The hope is that home field will soon be clinched with Manoah being a cinch to start baseball’s second season.
He was marvelous Friday night when the Boston Red Sox came to town.
Manoah didn’t exactly steal the show, but he did show why he’s the ace of Toronto’s staff in spearheading the Jays’ 9-0 win at Rogers Centre.
Through five innings, Manoah tossed 83 pitches, including 51 for strikes.
In the sixth, leadoff hitter Jarren Duran hit a broken-bat single to centre. Manoah then got Rafael Devers to ground into a double play. The inning ended on a meekly hit ground out by Xander Bogaerts.
Turns out it was the end of the line for Manoah, who was met with well-deserved congratulatory handshakes in the dugout.
His pitching line read 96 pitches, four strikeouts, two walks and two hits on an impressive night by the Jays that would see them record three home runs.
Boston had its first base runner in scoring position in the top half of the fourth inning, which began when Manoah issued a free pass to Devers.
A wild pitch would advance Devers, but he would be left stranded after J.D. Martinez grounded out to second to end the inning.
Simply put, Manoah was marvelous on the mound.
In the fifth, he induced a grounder to Abraham Almonte. Manoah was slow coming off the mound and wasn’t able to even take the throw at first.
Almonte reached base as Boston recorded its first hit off Manoah on a single to the right side of the infield.
The way Manoah was dealing, an infield single was viewed as a rally.
Once again, the Red Sox would end an inning without scoring a run.
VLAD THE IMPALER
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. belted one of his patented no doubters in the third inning, a two-run blast that gave the home side a 4-0 lead.
For Vlad Jr., it was his 31st long ball of the season to drive in his 94th and 95th runs of the season.
While he’s nowhere near last year’s 48-homer campaign, a hot-hitting Vlad Jr. heading into the playoffs will go a long way in determining how deep Toronto can make a run.
Friday’s bomb was Vlad Jr.’s first homer since Sept. 21 when the Jays were in Philly.
He ended the month of September with four homers.
George Springer didn’t waste much time in getting on base.
On the first pitch he saw from Boston starter Nick Pivetta, Toronto’s leadoff hitter hit a shot to centre for a single.
Up stepped Bo Bichette.
On the second pitch Bichette saw, he stroked a single to left.
Springer and Bichette both advanced on a passed ball.
Springer would come around to score the game’s first run on a groundout by
Alejandro Kirk, who batted cleanup.
In the eighth inning, Bichette knocked in his 47th run of September to tie Tony Fernandez and Lloyd Moseby for the most in any calendar month in franchise history.
TO CELEBRATE IS GREAT
The Jays took to the field knowing they had already clinched a berth in the post-season when Boston defeated Baltimore Thursday night.
The plan, according to interim manager John Schneider, was for the team to celebrate its accomplishment regardless of Friday night’s outcome.
“I think whenever you have a chance to do that you have to embrace it,” said Schneider prior to opening pitch. ”That doesn’t happen all the time and I can’t wait to have a good time with that group.”
For Bichette, who watched the Red Sox defeat the Orioles with teammate Santiago Espinal, the Jays have every right to bask in the glow of a playoff appearance.
“All the hard work paid off,’’ he said. “We put a lot in and we had high expectations of ourselves and we were able to accomplish it.
“There’s still more work to do, obviously, and we expect more but we definitely need to enjoy this.”
As part of the team’s recognition and acknowledgments to honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a moment of silence was held.
The Survivors’ Flag was featured throughout Rogers Centre to honour survivors and all the lives impacted by the residential school system.
The anthem was performed in Blackfoot, English and French.
Kirk was behind the plate in the series opener serving as Manoah’s unofficial personal catcher.
In fact, only once hasn’t Kirk been Manoah’s battery mate this season when the big right-hander was on the mound.
The pitcher-catcher combo seems to be working and there appears to be no discernible reason why the Blue Jays would deviate from this pattern once the post-season begins.
Danny Jansen, Toronto’s other catcher, was also in the lineup in the rare role as DH.
Jansen batted eighth in the order.