Ray beats Manoah and Blue Jays in high-octane pitcher duel

SEATTLE — The first meeting between Robbie Ray and his former Toronto Blue Jays teammates since the defending American League Cy Young Award winner left via free agency took place in the T-Mobile outfield Thursday after -midday.

Ray, pants tight as always, was clapping and exchanging hugs, big smiles all around. The three-hometown season grind in 2021, particularly in Buffalo when a significant portion of the club stayed at the same hotel, forged lasting bonds. « It was like a bunch of brothers hanging out, » he recalls. « And I talk about it all the time – it was a special group that we had. It didn’t matter who it was, every night there were five of us, six, seven, eight of us eating pizza, eating wings in Hyun Jin’s (Ryu) room or in my room, being just guys. It made us closer, that’s for sure. »

Among the strongest of those bonds is the one he built with Alek Manoah, which made their high-octane duel won 2-1 on Saturday night by the Seattle Mariners all the more compelling. The two exchanged tweets during that rally on the ground on Thursday – « I was joking with him that it’s going to be like a father-son reunion on the mound, » Ray said – before sparring in front of a loud, divided crowd. of 41,210.

Although Ray didn’t get that far in the game, he ended up giving up a point less than Manoah, limiting the damage against him to a solo shot from George Springer in the sixth after escaping a base-loaded jam and without exit to the fifth. unscathed.

Manoah, mixing his lead more aggressively against a formation of five left-handed hitters and switches, put zeros out of six. Then JP Crawford opened the seventh with a single against the quarterback and the recent acquisition of Carlos Santana, someone who would have made sense for the Blue Jays, unloaded on a midfielder 0-1 for a two shot points.

It was the difference, as the Blue Jays charged with two outs in the ninth but Diego Castillo forced a late-game strikeout from Matt Chapman, dropping the visitors to 1-5 on their coast swing west. They have now lost eight of their last nine, including two since a players-only encounter before Friday’s 5-2 11-leg defeat, underscoring the growing urgency around the club.

« Go back and find positives, » Manoah said. « Today I think there were a lot of positives and I have to keep attacking and sometimes the difference is just one pitch. I just have to keep learning, keep attacking and keep competing.

Manoah more than did his share in a brilliant 7.1 innings, limiting the Mariners to two runs on three hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. It allowed for an impressive rebound from an odd outing against the Athletics in which he allowed a season-high five points but probably deserved better.

« He kind of took me under his wing, (taught me) some of the unwritten rules of baseball that are hard to figure out because they’re unwritten, » Manoah said. « But he did a great job of taking care of me and showing me a bit of the ropes and obviously I got to watch a Cy Young Award caliber year. The way he worked had a huge influence on me. .

Ray, meanwhile, held the Blue Jays to three hits and two walks while striking out six, an outing reminiscent of the dominant form he showed throughout his stellar Cy Young season, even s got there in a different way. Primarily throwing sinkers, a pitch he incorporated this season so he could attack the outside edge of the plate against right-handers and not be entirely reliant on high four seams and low sliders, he was in charge for four before marches to Alejandro Kirk and Teoscar Hernandez and a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. single loaded the bases.

Ray recovered by knocking out Matt Chapman, setting Santiago Espinal on a soft rocket in second and Ramiel Tapia on low ground short. Gurriel’s base hit was symbolic of how things are going for the Blue Jays, as their only hit with runners in scoring position earned no run.

“You see what I see. We put the ball in play. We just don’t get the big hits in a timely manner,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “I’m not so concerned about our strikes because we’re going to strike. I’m telling you right now, we’re going to knock. I just want our pitchers to get back on track and the last two days our pitchers have done a great job of keeping us in games. If we do that, we’re going to hit and we’re going to start winning games. »

The Blue Jays attempted to keep Ray, but ultimately handed Kevin Gausman a five-year, $110 million contract a day before the southpaw agreed to a five-year, $115 million deal with the Mariners. Between the extra $5 million and the difference in taxes between Washington State and Ontario, the gap between deals is wider than it looks, so the 30-something has moved on.

“Everyone talks about money and you want you want to be in a place where you can set up your family for a long time. Honestly, that was one of the biggest factors that made me come here,” Ray said. « And then my family, we love the Seattle area. We’re an outdoor family. We’re always hiking, we’re always doing things outdoors. And this was the perfect place for us. » It just seemed like the right solution.

The same applies to the Blue Jays with the talented Gausman, who won’t start on Sunday as his right ankle continues to heal after being hit by a Wander Franco rocket last weekend. Tuesday is now his next target date, with Max Castillo expected to feature prominently as a starter or loose arm in his place in the final.

Whether it’s an afternoon in rescue mode at the end of what has been a tough journey to cap a 31-game-in-30-day streak isn’t ideal, but such is life for the Blue Jays right now. Manoah only made one mistake but so far that’s one too many.

Whether it’s an afternoon in rescue mode at the end of what has been a tough journey to cap a 31-game-in-30-day streak isn’t ideal, but such is life for the Blue Jays right now. Manoah only made one mistake but for now it’s one too many.


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