Manoah brings the heat -- and the spice

July 24th, 2022

TORONTO -- There’s no better reality television than . 

His weekly episodes tend to follow the same structure -- with a running time of six or seven innings  leading to a climactic win -- but drama waits around every corner. In the middle of it, you’ll find Manoah, the only person in the building enjoying it more than you are.

• Box score

Manoah closed his outing Saturday with a fiery flourish in the Blue Jays’ 4-1 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park, striking out the final three batters he faced. The second K, to Franchy Cordero, gave a mild game a spicy turn, the Red Sox DH jawing with Manoah as he walked back to the dugout. When Manoah gets you, he’s not afraid to let you know, or perhaps suggest you “go sit the [expletive] down.”

The next batter, Bobby Dalbec, watched a 95 mph fastball whizz by for strike three to end the inning. Manoah said more of the same to Dalbec, this time with some added animation as he walked toward his dugout. Boston’s dugout spilled onto the infield dirt, nearly emptying entirely, and Cavan Biggio raced in from first base to drape an arm around Manoah and get him into the dugout before things completely boiled over.

“I think I had said, ‘Let’s go get some BioSteel,’” Manoah said, a winking nod to the sports hydration company he just signed a deal with. “He was like, ‘No, man, you need to go get some Gatorade,’ so I was like, ‘No, man, you need to sit down. I’m going to go get some BioSteel.’”

This was Manoah at his fullest and truest. He misses bats and plays the hits, improvising with the wit of a comic and the confidence of a heavyweight champ.

John Schneider spoke with Manoah when he exited after six innings of one-run ball to earn his 11th win, but the new manager recognizes the power of Manoah’s energy.

“I’ve always said that when guys are comfortable, that’s the best version of them,” Schneider said. “You saw it in the All-Star Game. He’s a big personality. There’s a fine line of competing, sportsmanship and gamesmanship, if you will. Today, look at the way the game goes, and guys celebrate when they do well, whether it’s offensively or on the mound. I was good with it.”

Across the diamond, Alex Cora might not have loved it, but he got it.

"Nobody's gonna feel sorry for us. He showed it today, right?” the Red Sox manager said. “In the sixth inning, he was looking in the dugout, screaming at us, and yeah, this is where we’re at.”

These are the moments only made possible by some level of rivalry. Sure, the exhausting humidity and Friday’s record-setting 28-5 Toronto win didn’t help anyone’s mood. But the Blue Jays and Red Sox are locked into the same American League Wild Card race that looks ready to go to the wire.

Boston’s loss, its fourth in a row, put it three games back of the final spot. Toronto’s win, its fifth in a row, gave it a one-game cushion over that final spot. The highs and lows on either side aren’t difficult to understand.

These moments only seem to fuel Manoah more. Give him a historic backdrop to film this show, and it only gets more entertaining.

“It’s Fenway, man. That’s the same mound Babe Ruth pitched on,” Manoah said. “A lot of legends after him and before him. This place is amazing. It just has a different aura around it. As a kid growing up, you watch the movie ‘Fever Pitch,’ and you’re just like, man, this place is amazing.”

There’s a difference between talking a big game and pitching one, though. Baseball is littered with examples of pitchers who talked faster than they pitched, but Manoah continues to back it up in his second MLB season, earning the All-Star nod and putting himself into the AL Cy Young Award conversation if this continues.

It’s impossible to measure, but the simplest version of the story is that Manoah knows this is something he can control. Once the ball leaves his hand, anything can happen, but his competitiveness, energy and emotions are up to him. He hasn’t always had the tightest grip on those, but as he has grown older and grown up, he has learned how to wrangle them.

Not every inning builds to the same crescendo, of course. That would be overdone and overwritten. But along the 162-game marathon, Manoah’s 30-plus starts are your best bet at catching something memorable.

And if you’re bored, just wait a few pitches.