Blue Jays hope Alek Manoah continues turnaround vs. Tigers

Alek Manoah is beginning to resemble the dominant pitcher who was chosen for the 2022 All-Star Game.

After a disastrous 2023 campaign, the Toronto Blue Jays’ right-hander has put together back-to-back solid seven-inning outings. He’ll make his fourth start of the season against the host Detroit Tigers on Friday night.

Manoah (1-1, 3.00 ERA) allowed only three unearned runs and four hits to the Minnesota Twins on May 12, then limited the Tampa Bay Rays to one hit and one walk while recording his first victory this season.

“He looked great again (Sunday),” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “I just love the way he is attacking the zone. … His last outing vs. Minnesota and (Sunday), this is probably the best he has looked even going back to 2022.”

Manoah was 16-7 with a 2.24 ERA in 2022 but fell on hard times last season, losing his command while going 3-9 with a 5.87 ERA. He walked 59 batters in 87 1/3 innings last season after issuing just 51 walks in 196 2/3 innings the previous year. He wound up in the minors trying in vain to regain his 2022 form.

“I’m not looking back,” Manoah said. “I’m not going that way.”

In four career starts against Detroit, he’s 1-1 with a 4.09 ERA.

He’ll be opposed by right-hander Matt Manning (0-1, 4.88), who is also trying to re-establish himself as a major league starter. He has bounced back and forth between Triple-A Toledo and the Tigers this spring after making 45 major league starts in the past three seasons.

He returned to the big leagues on May 13 when Kenta Maeda was placed on the 15-day injured list due to an illness. Manning’s past two outings have been disappointing — he allowed three runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings against Miami on May 13, then surrendered four runs and 10 hits in five innings at Arizona on Sunday.

“He battled himself from the get-go,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “He lost a lot of first-pitch battles and they put some pretty good swings on him. He was under duress in just about every inning. He did control the innings when he could by not giving up the implosion where they get three, four, five runs.”

Manning, who is 1-1 with a 2.43 ERA in three career starts against Toronto, could be headed back to the minors regardless of his performance. Maeda is expected to be activated this weekend.

Toronto won the opener of the four-game series, 9-1, on Thursday night. Daulton Varsho, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Isiah Kiner-Falefa homered for the Blue Jays, who have won four of their past five games.

The Tigers have dropped five straight, getting outscored 41-14 during that span.

“Obviously this is a tough stretch,” Hinch said. “I love the plan we have going into every night. Everybody understands it and then you have to go out and execute it. It gets tougher and tougher the more you bring some of the frustrations into the game and the lack of hits pile up on you.”

–Field Level Media