PITTSBURGH (AP) — Alek Manoah pitched shutout ball into the eighth inning and Bo Bichette homered, leading the Toronto Blue Jays to a 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
Manoah (13-7) allowed five hits and struck out six in 7 1/3 innings, retiring 15 of the final 18 batters he faced. The right-hander went at least seven innings without allowing a run for the first time since last Sept. 13, when he made it through eight innings.
“He did more than we could’ve asked,” Toronto manager John Schneider said. “He was awesome tonight. … I think it kind of speaks for itself. We trust him and he’s a tremendous competitor.”
The Blue Jays have won 10 of 15 and maintained their 1 1/2-game edge over the Baltimore Orioles in the race for the third and final wild-card spot in the American League.
Manoah tossed 98 pitches one night after standing on the sideline for his alma mater, West Virginia, in its 38-31 loss to No. 17 Pittsburgh in the revived college football Backyard Brawl. On Friday night, he was met with cheers from a section filled by the university’s baseball team. The 24-year-old All-Star was drafted No. 11 overall out of West Virginia by the Blue Jays in 2019.
“It meant a lot,” Manoah said. “Pregame, I’m in the outfield doing my warmups. Kind of just got emotional, thinking two years back, sitting in the dugout, we’re playing Pitt. I’m like, ‘Man, I want to be in the big leagues playing here.’ Fast forward now, I’m here doing it. There was a lot of motivation to go out there. A lot of people rooting for me that I just wanted to make proud. It was pretty awesome to have a good night.”
Toronto scored a pair of runs with three straight hits off of Tyler Beede (1-5) to start the fourth inning. Matt Chapman led off with a double down the left-field line, Cavan Biggio followed with an infield single and Santiago Espinal drove both in with a double to left.
“We were just trying to stay aggressive while making sure that every pitch that he threw was in the zone,” Espinal said. “Making sure that we’re not swinging at bad pitches. He’s a little bit wild. We got the W and we got good pitches to hit.”
Beede replaced Johan Oviedo, who was pulled after 77 pitches and three shutout innings in his first start for Pittsburgh since a trade from St. Louis on Aug. 1. Oviedo allowed two hits and three walks with four strikeouts.
A leadoff double by Tyler Heineman gave Pittsburgh a chance to go ahead in the third, but he was caught trying to advance on a passed ball.
The Pirates, who have dropped 28 of 38 since the All-Star break, didn’t get another hit off of Manoah until Jack Suwinski’s one-out single in the seventh. Another single by Cal Mitchell put runners on the corners with two outs before Michael Chavis grounded out to third.
That came after Manoah had a four-pitch fifth inning, retiring Mitchell and Chavis on one pitch before using two to set down Tucupita Marcano.
“I was kind of hoping it was going to be three pitches,” Manoah said. “Threw a heater right down the middle. I don’t know. That was pretty good. Needed a nice little break there.”
Bichette added to the Blue Jays’ lead in the ninth with a two-run homer to left, his 18th of the season.
“He’s just getting back to himself,” Espinal said of Bichette. “As you can see, he’s feeling more comfortable now. That’s the Bo that we know.”
Blue Jays: OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. sat out with a sore left wrist.
Pirates: 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes left after the fifth inning with left shoulder discomfort. He is day to day. … OF Ben Gamel was held out of the lineup because of an issue with his left foot. It is not expected to be serious, manager Derek Shelton said.
Pirates RHP Roansy Contreras (4-4, 3.57 ERA) will take the mound on Saturday against RHP Trevor Richards (3-1, 4.53) for the Blue Jays. Contreras, a rookie, has allowed seven runs in 24 innings over his past four outings. Richards will start for the first time since Sept. 17, 2020, while with the Rays.