TORONTO (AP) – There’s a lot going into Alek Manoah’s first career play-off, but Toronto Blue Jays All-Star right-hand man is not the one to worry about facing the Seattle Mariners in Friday’s opening match.
“My high school coach used to say pressure is something you put on your tires,” Manoah joked on Thursday. “This is just baseball. It’s just a game. Just have to get out there, have a little fun and leave the pressure on your tires. “
Luis Castillo started Game 1 for Seattle, making his first post-season appearance since 2001. The Mariners won Toronto 5-2 this season.
Manoah is 16-7 with a 2.44 ERA in his second major season, holding a rotation that also includes two powers with over $100 million in contracts, Kevin Gausman and José Berríos.
However, with a combination of performance and a ready-to-go big, Manoah was Toronto’s obvious choice to take the ball in the opener.
“It looks like he’s been ready for this moment since he signed,” Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said of Manoah. “He lives for moments like this and embraces everything that comes with it, but keeps his duty first. We’re glad he’ll help us move on. “
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins certainly shares that excitement.
Atkins said: “Alek was nothing short of remarkable. “I’ve never met a pitcher like him.”
Similarly, Mariners manager Scott Servais has reason to feel good about Castillo, who led 4-2 with a 3.17 ERA in 11 games for Seattle after being acquired from Cincinnati on delivery deadline. Translate.
“I couldn’t be more confident in sending anyone out there,” Servais said. “When you have such a high-profile guy, the fact that we trade for him, we just sign him long-term, it’s the perfect timing.”
A strong performance in Game 1 could be crucial in the best of these three games.
However, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays will have the added advantage of playing the entire series at home, where a massive fanbase is poised for their first first-hand look at post-season baseball since 2016, when Toronto actually second of consecutive ALCS occurrences.
That 2016 team beat Baltimore at home to win followed by a one-game wild card showdown, with Edwin Encarnacion’s 11th game sending Toronto into the split.
As the sixth anniversary of Encarnacion’s blast passed on Tuesday, a highlight video of the homer surfaced on Manoah’s Twitter feed, leading to a flurry of repeat views from the current Jays star.
“I couldn’t believe the energy and the atmosphere,” Manoah said. “The building shook, man. I used to use that to sense some of the energy that will come tomorrow. “
Servais said left-hander Robbie Ray, who won the 2021 AL Cy Young Award with the Blue Jays after winning 13-7 with 2.84 ERAs and 248 strikes, will face his former team in Game 2 on Saturday. Ray signed a $115 million, five-year contract with the Mariners last winter to feature in big games like the knockouts. It’s been a tough first season in Seattle for Ray, especially over the past month. In his last five starts, Ray has an ERA of 5.27 and allows eight home runs in 27 1/3 rounds.
Gausman left the final game of the regular season because of a cut in his right index finger but had a rallying session on Thursday.
“He’s doing great,” said Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins. “We don’t expect it to limit him. We are really encouraged by the recovery. “
As for Toronto, decisions are still pending on the status of midfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who has been out of action for a month due to a strain on his left hamstring, and midfielder Santiago Espinal, who has been out of action since the date. September 21 due to a strained left oblique injury.
DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE?
Due to an extended absence from the season, the Mariners don’t have much playoff experience. Carlos Santana is the man with the most games with 23 during his time in Cleveland. Only eight other Mariners have appeared in a post-season game, and two of them – Jesse Winker and Marco Gonzales – will not be on the roster for the wild card series. Ray appeared in three playoffs and third defender Eugenio Suarez appeared in two.
The Blue Jays also don’t have much playoff experience, though most of the core players get a two-game taste in 2020 when Toronto gets swept up in Tampa Bay in the post-pandemic short-season qualifiers. The Blue Jays have a seasoned playoff veteran in the form of quarterback George Springer, who was the World Series MVP for Houston in 2017. Springer has 19 home runs in 63 post-season games of his career.
TRUE WILD CARD
The Mariners are still deciding whether to add minor league prospect Cade Marlowe to the playoff roster, although the speedy quarterback has yet to make his major league debut. Marlowe has hit 23 home runs and stolen 42 bases at Triple-A Tacoma this season. He could be a replacement for Sam Haggerty, who is currently out with a strained left groin.
Mariners president Jerry Dipoto said Marlowe “does a little bit of everything,” but points to his defense and ability to defend.
“In the post-season, those are really important things to have in terms of bench impact,” Dipoto said. “I don’t know that you can make more impact from the bench than being able to get a plus defender out, or one who can go robbing the base. Cade can do those things and he can hit the ball over the fence too. We think he has a skill set that can impact a short series of games. “
Seattle-based Associated Press writer Tim Booth contributed to this report.
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