Another start, another solid outing by Alek Manoah, who is starting to look like a legitimate ace.
The kid is good and will only get better the more innings he pitches, the more comfortable he becomes when he’s on the mound.
No stage is big for the hard-thrower, a fearless competitor who took a 3-0 record into Thursday’s series finale against the Boston Red Sox.
Manoah went seven innings of three-hit ball, striking out seven and surrendering three hits.
Had the Jays’ offence been able to capitalize on scoring opportunities, Manoah would have had a much more casual walk in the old ballpark.
As it was, the game turned into a nailbiter given the paucity of runs.
Even in times of offensive inefficiency, the formula for winning begins with Manoah and ends with Jordan Romano.
And in between one can always find Adam Cimber.
The pitching troika did the trick as the Jays took three of four over the Bosox following their 1-0 win.
Romano gave up a one-out single in the ninth before ending the afternoon on line out and a called strike.
Through four innings, Manoah gave up one hit.
During that stretch, he threw 59 pitches, including 41 for strikes.
His counterpart, Garrett Whitlock, went three innings before the Sox would turn to Austin Davis.
Whitlock surrendered four hits and two walks.
Still, the lone run the Jays scored off Whitlock was unearned.
A pitching carousel would ensue for Boston as Davis made way for John Schreiber, who inherited a runner at first base after George Springer drew a walk.
Schreiber needed one pitch to induce the free-swinging Bo Bichette into grounding out to end the inning.
Boston didn’t have its first runner in scoring position until the fifth inning.
Manoah took care of business by retiring Travis Shaw on a swinging strike, the seventh strikeout of the day recorded by Manoah.
One of hardest balls hit off Manoah came courtesy of Christian Vazquez, who turned on a first-pitch fastball to begin the sixth inning.
It was a rocket the moment Vazquez’s bat made contact, the ball soaring to right field where Raimel Tapia made a very nice catch at the fence to earn the applause of fans and his teammates, who acknowledged the catch by tapping their gloves in Tapia’s direction.
Manoah then walked Trevor Story, Boston’s leadoff hitter, the first free pass issued by the righty.
No further damage would be done as Manoah ended the frame unscathed.
Boston’s top half of the seventh would feature a double down the right-field line by Kike Hernandez.
A sac bunt advanced Hernandez to third.
Christian Arroyo lined the first pitch for an out.
Up stepped Bobby Dalbec, who promptly popped out in foul territory.
LINEUP AND DOWN
By any standards, the lineup the Jays featured in the series finale didn’t exactly strike fear or evoke images of a modern day version of Murders’ Row.
In fact, one can make the case that Thursday’s lineup was one of the least intimidating the Jays have trotted out this season.
Consider Tapia was thrust into the role of cleanup followed by Matt Chapman.
The bottom third of the order began with Santiago Espinal in the No. 7 hole, Gosuke Katoh and Bradley Zimmer batting ninth.
There was no Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who fouled a ball off his right foot Wednesday.
Once he composed himself and shook off the discomfort, Vlad Jr. ran hard down the first-base line to beat out a throw on an attempted double play.
He stayed in the game to complete the night.
The fielder’s choice would score a run, the lone run the Jays would push across the plate in a convincing win by Boston.
Vlad Jr. normally bats third.
Thursday, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was in the No. 3 hole.
In 19 games, Guerrero has five home runs and a .309 batting average.
KUDOS TO KATOH
A day after producing his first-career hit in the bigs, Katoh, who started at first base, came to the plate in his first at-bat with a runner in scoring position.
Katoh beat out a double play to get on base on a fielder’s choice.
The Jays had runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings.
Alejandro Kirk, who batted sixth in the lineup, came through with a two-out single to left field to score Gurriel, who reached base on a fielding error by shortstop Christian Arroyo.
Chapman celebrated his 29th birthday Thursday.
His glove is beyond reproach as is his range at third and arm strength.
At the plate, there’s still plenty of miss.
When he came to the plate in the home half of the first inning, Chapman had runners at the corner and two outs.
He struck out.
It marked the seventh game in a row in which Chapman has struck out.
He struck out three times Tuesday night, the third time Chapman has recorded baseball’s dreaded version of a hat trick as a Blue Jay.
In his debut against Texas, Chapman was fanned three times.
Thursday’s first-inning K was Chapman’s 22nd in his 20th game of the season.
He struck out again in the third inning, but made amends with a two-out double down the left-field line in the fifth inning.
Chapman would be left stranded.
When the fifth inning was officially in the books, the Jays had gone 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.