Alek Manoah struggles in MLB return, as the Blue Jays lose another series

One of the biggest questions for the Toronto Blue Jays coming into the 2024 season was whether starting pitcher Alek Manoah could refind his old form. The former all-star struggled in 2023, posting a 5.87 ERA for the Jays before his season ended early due to inflammation and discomfort in his throwing arm.

After only making one spring training start due to shoulder inflammation, Manoah got a chance to prove himself in the majors once again after starter Yariel Rodriguez went on the IL with back issues. However, considering Manoah’s 2024 stats include an 8.69 ERA and 1.98 WHIP in five minor league starts, fans were concerned about the 2019 first-round pick, who would struggle against the Washington Nationals.

The game wouldn’t start pretty for the Jays, as a throwing error by Bo Bichette, mixed in with a hit and two walks by Manoah, allowed the Nationals to go up 1-0 early in the first.

Toronto would answer quickly in the top of the second, as a groundball from Isiah Kiner-Falefa was mishandled by Nationals starting pitcher Mackenize Gore, evening the game at 1.

Later in the inning, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would give the Blue Jays a big boost, hitting his fifth career grand slam, which gave the Jays a big 5-1 lead.

Toronto scored another run in the third, now commanding a 6-1 lead. The Jays’ offensive eruption booted SP Mackenzie Gore from the game after three innings, which was his shortest start of the season. Gore gave up six runs, but only two were earned.

Meanwhile, Manoah was starting to cruise through 2 1/3 innings, striking out six batters already, until Luis Garcia Jr. hit another home run, cutting the lead to 6-2 Toronto.

Garcia Jr. continued to haunt the Jays in the series, hitting a two-run single for his 7th RBI in three games, making it 6-4 Toronto in the fourth.

It would only get worse for Manoah in the fourth, after letting two more batters on base, a hanging slider was crushed by Jesse Winker for a three-run homer, as the Nationals scored six unanswered runs, taking a 7-6 lead.

Manoah pitched four innings, allowing six earned runs and four walks while striking out six batters.

Toronto’s offense answered back, scoring two runs in the fifth, retaking a 8-7 lead

Garcia Jr. came in clutch for Washington again in the sixth, scoring Jacob Young on a single to even it at eight before being thrown out at 2nd.

After Génesis Cabrera gave up a double to Winker in the seventh, John Schneider was forced to turn to struggle reliever Erik Swanson with a depleted bullpen. Facing Eddie Rosario, who was hitting below .100 heading into the game, Swanson gave up a two-run homer, making it 10-8 Nationals.

Toronto’s bullpen ranked 27th in ERA before today’s game, giving up 141 earned runs this year.

Washington scored another run in the eighth and closed the game by beating the Blue Jays 11-8. Toronto has lost four consecutive series, falling to a 16-19 record.

The Jays front office’s decision to call up Manoah was undoubtedly questionable as José Berríos, named AL pitcher of the month in April, could have started the game on his regular four days of rest. Toronto winning a series against a rebuilding team was crucial for a Jays squad sitting last in its division.

A positive sign for the Jays was scoring eight runs for the first time since March 31st, as Guerrero Jr., Davis Schneider, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa each picked up two hits.

Toronto has an off day tomorrow before starting a two-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday.

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