Judge raises eyebrows as Yankees cruise to series opening win in Toronto

Stefan Luciani
FiredUp Network Sports Writer


Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Struggles continued for Alek Manoah as the Yankees belted two first inning home runs off of him en-route to a 7-4 victory

TORONTO – A theme has started to develop whenever Alek Manoah pitches. 


Barring a brilliant start from the 25-year-old during his first outing against the Yankees, Manoah has struggled mightily to start the 2023 campaign. 


Manoah was on the mound for the series opener Monday night against the Bronx Bombers and was shaky to say the least, lasting just four full innings in which he surrendered five runs on six hits – three of which came from home runs in just the first inning – and seven walks en-route to the Blue Jays 7-4 loss to their division rivals. 


Normally, another Manoah start like that would be the main story, but Monday night, all eyes seemed to be on Aaron Judge. 


During an eighth inning appearance for the slugger, the Blue Jays broadcast team of Dan Shulman and Buck Martinez noted something of interest during his at bat. Just a few pitches prior to the 462-foot bomb, the duo saw Judge awkwardly appearing to look into his dugout just before the pitch delivery. He did it a couple of times before hitting himself the round-tripper. 


Now of course paranoia has been rampant through baseball since the Houston Astros scandal a few years back. And the broadcast duo made sure the state they were by no means insinuating anything with the comments, but speculation was quick to spread. 


Blue Jays manager John Schneider described it as “kind of odd that a hitter would be looking in that direction” and added that “he's obviously looking in that direction for a reason,” which Judge said was to quiet teammates still chirping home-plate umpire Clint Vondrak, who had just ejected manager Aaron Boone.


The reasoning seems valid and common sense should prevail understanding that it more than likely was a small something made out of nothing, but the Blue Jays are certainly on guard. 


Blue Jays pitcher Jay Jackson, was the unlucky hurler to surrender the long-ball, and had some thoughts of his own. 


“I really haven't seen hitters do that, so I can't say what he was really doing,” said Jackson. “During the game, I don't pay attention to it as much. I just try to go out there and throw strikes. After he hit the home run, went in to watch the video to see more where the pitch was compared to like if he was doing anything funky. And it wasn't a bad pitch. For me, for it to get hit that hard, maybe there is something there, but I also threw six sliders in a row. He could have been sitting on it.”


He also followed with an anecdote about a former teammate who used to look away from the pitcher and blink in order to counteract a focus issue that popped up sometimes. 


But scandals aside, Manaoh’s struggles continue to be an issue that aren’t going away just yet. He appeared to have more confidence in his slider, a pitch that generated three whiffs in last night’s outing, after failing to do so in his previous two starts. He also kept going back to his sinker which generated a further four whiffs, but was critical of his command. 


“Right now the game is just testing me and you find out who's who when things aren't going well,” said Manoah, who later said his routine work between starts remains strong. “When things aren't going good you can try and change everything and then you kind of lose who you are. So I'm definitely not going to be doing that. I think it's just continue to adjust and continue to watch video and kind of just make minor adjustments.”


The Blue Jays fell into a 7-0 by the time the eighth inning came around, but sparked a late rally to score four of their own. Unfortunately for them, the damage had been done as the Yankees improved to 24-19 to sit jut one game back from the Blue Jays in the AL East. 


The two will go for game two of the four-game split on Tuesday night as Kevin Gausman will look to continue his scorching start to the season. An injury-riddled Yankees club will answer with 30-year-old Domingo German.