Mic'd-up Manoah puts on a show: 'Three punchies! Let's go!'

July 20th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Alek Manoah talking to himself on the mound is nothing new. The only difference for the 2022 All-Star Game was that there was another voice talking back (and a nation listening in).

Taking part in his first Midsummer Classic on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, the Blue Jays right-hander provided one of the most entertaining moments of the night during his dominant second inning for the American League in a 3-2 win. While pitching, Manoah was mic’d up on the mound, and he supplied some colorful commentary for the FOX broadcast team.

“Usually, when I talk to myself, nobody talks back,” Manoah said with a laugh. “Hearing them talk back and hearing John Smoltz on the other side, it was pretty fun. It was super electric.”

Manoah’s stuff on the mound was also electric. Striking out three of his four batters faced, he became just the second Blue Jay to record at least three strikeouts in an All-Star Game. The first was seven-time All-Star righty Dave Stieb, who struck out four in three innings at Comiskey Park in 1983.

Manoah did this despite briefly dealing with a slower fastball than his usual average. After his first pitch to William Contreras of the Braves to begin the inning hit just 93 mph (just below his season average of 94 mph), Manoah asked the broadcast crew, “How hard am I throwing?” Later in the at-bat, he perfectly placed a 94.2 mph sinker near the bottom of the zone for a called strike three, to which he exclaimed, “Here we go! There’s one!”

One batter later, Manoah tried his hand at reading Toronto teammate Alejandro Kirk’s mind. Facing the Giants' Joc Pederson, Manoah predicted Kirk would call for a front-door sinker. After shaking off Kirk once, the big righty got the pitch and struck out the slugging outfielder on a foul tip.

The only blemish on Manoah’s line was a hit-by-pitch, and he partially has a reason to blame Smoltz for that. Asking the Hall of Famer what to throw on an 0-2 count to the Mets' Jeff McNeil, Smoltz called for a backdoor slider down and in.

“Oh, you’re sexy,” Manoah responded to Smoltz’s request. “Here we go.”

The pitch got away from Manoah and hit McNeil in the right foot.

Manoah regrouped after the HBP and quickly worked the Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr. to a 1-2 count before blowing a 94-mph fastball by him to finish off a stellar performance.

“I don’t remember anything really,” Manoah said of his adrenaline-filled outing. “Getting to face Acuña, that was pretty amazing. I think I’ll remember getting three punchies there. That was pretty awesome.”

It was a memorable moment for Manoah, who said he was approached with the idea of pitching while wearing a mic before the game, an offer he accepted without hesitation. It was certainly an enjoyable experience, but not something Manoah would jump to do again during the season with the Blue Jays likely to be involved in a fierce playoff race.

“It gets a little crazier in regular-season games,” Manoah said.

Before the game, Kirk had his own special moment. With Dodgers legend Fernando Valenzuela throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in the stadium where the Mexican-born pitcher produced his magical “Fernandomania” run 41 years ago, the Jays catcher was given the honor of receiving the pitch from his fellow countryman.

Kirk -- who hails from Tijuana, Mexico, which is only about a 2 1/2-hour drive south of Dodger Stadium -- became the first Mexican-born catcher selected to the All-Star Game and just the 15th Mexican-born player to take part in the contest.

“It’s really beautiful to represent Mexico in a city like Los Angeles that has a big Mexican population,” Kirk said before the game. “It’s something I always dreamed about growing up.”

Following his starring role as MVP of the 2021 All-Star Game, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had no issues ceding the spotlight to his fellow teammates.

Playing three innings as the AL starting first baseman and finishing 0-for-2 at the plate, Guerrero entered his second career All-Star appearance hoping to soak in the atmosphere a little more. He took joy in watching teammates Manoah, Kirk, Santiago Espinal and Jordan Romano go through their first All-Star experience.

“A lot more relaxed,” Guerrero said of his All-Star week. “I was just trying to enjoy the game, even more than last year, and I did. It was great.”