Alek Manoah burst onto the scene this year, becoming one of baseball’s best pitchers.
His 2.24 ERA was the fourth-lowest in all of baseball, and his All-Star season earned him a spot as the Toronto Blue Jays’ Game 1 starter Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays in a wild-card series.
It will be the biggest start of Manoah’s career.
For Manoah, the pressure is a privilege. He says he doesn’t feel any.
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“I had a coach that used to say, ‘Pressure is something that you put in your tires,'” Manoah said Thursday. “This is just baseball. It’s just a game, just gotta go out there and have some fun and leave the pressure for your tires.”
Manoah knows the importance of Friday’s game. The Blue Jays are looking for their first World Series title since 1993, and 11 other teams are vying for that same trophy.
“This is what it’s all about right here, right? You train all offseason, you train all year, you go through the ups and the downs, and this is what it’s all for. The bright lights. Postseason baseball. This is what you dream of as a kid,” Manoah said.
“For me, I’m just gonna go out there and have some fun, play some baseball. I love playing with these guys, and we got a great team, and we enjoy playing with each other, and that’s what we’re gonna do. Just go play some baseball …
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“I just feel like it’s another game. You don’t have to put too much into it. This is what we work for. We’ve been doing it our whole life. I know how to play baseball more than I know how to do anything in this world. Kinda just gotta go keep doing it.”
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The winner of the Blue Jays-Rays will face the top-seeded Houston Astros in the American League Division Series. The Astros have made five straight ALCS, playing in three World Series in that span.