March 2, 2024

Westside People

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Blue Jays fall after a mound visit fumble, lack of a clutch

Blue Jays fall after a mound visit fumble, lack of a clutch

TORONTO — Mistakes have knocked Alec Manuah out early this season already, but those were usually his own.

Saturday at Rogers Center was a little different. With two players and two in the sixth and Manuah in just 85 pitches, manager John Schneider popped in for a chat. The problem was, however, that pitching coach Pete Walker had already visited Manoah in that inning, and a second visit in the same inning required a pitch change by rule.

Dan Isogna, the head home referee and crew chief, passed this information on to Schneider, who turned around and shared it with his first manager. Manoah’s shoulders sank and he came off the hill, the gas still in the tank.

“I [screwed] Schneider said immediately after the 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Orioles, owning up the error and making it clear it would not happen again. “I forgot Pete went there, because we were talking about so many different things.”

Manoah went through 5 and 2/3 innings of two-run ball at that point, rocking a rocky first inning to look more like himself the rest of the way. It was a welcome sign for the Blue Jays after Manoah walked seven batters last out, and his return to his 2022 form is as important as any narrative around this organization right now.

The big man didn’t show any frustration after losing, saying “It happens”, but there was still some confusion at the moment.

Given the stage and pitcher involved, a lot of post-loss interest will be based on this move, but it belongs elsewhere.

Let’s start with the Blue Jays’ ability to hit runners on base, which they gave up in their final 1-5 slip against the Yankees and Orioles. This is one of baseball’s great examples of “something that comes and goes,” but when it’s gone, it’s hard to look away from it.

The Blue Jays were just 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position on Saturday, and even if that number was 3-for-15, you’d be reading a different story.

Their .237 team average with runners in scoring position currently ranks them 24th in the MLB and their .704 OPS ranks them 21st. This talented group isn’t going to stay at those numbers forever, but the theme all week has been that the East demands urgency. There’s no time to wait in a division that’s perfectly capable of boasting five winning records at the end of it all.

It’s important not to lose sight of what went right for Manoah on an individual level, though, given his importance to this team’s success. He was also working with Danny Jansen for the first time in 2023, breaking up the Manoah-Alejandro Kirk tandem that had been together in 30 of 31 starts a year earlier.

“It’s just a different look on Alec, W,” Schneider said before the match [Jansen] The bat swings well.”

Jansen tends to be the cure for what ails the Blue Jays. It’s hard to overstate how much the organization internally valued Jansen. While his defense and ability to manage the show’s team could be more nuanced, it’s impossible to miss weeks like last week at the plate.

Jansen has already had two hits in the past week, and the home run on Saturday continues the hot streak that saw him slip back into his identity as a pulling power hitter. This is the Jansen we saw in 2022, who hits 15 home runs with a 0.855 OPS over just 72 games, and who has the potential to hit over 30 when he’s out there every day.

There won’t be a traditional “rookie” while Jansen and Kirk are in town, but on a team surprisingly hungry for home runs, Jansen’s superior potential should make him a “1A” powerhouse right now.

After Manoah and Jansen, Saturday’s effort failed in another painful way.

The Blue Jays are close — painfully close, at times — and their talent is undeniable on paper. They are set to show it on the field again, especially in the Middle East region.