TORONTO — History was made on the diamond in Toronto on Saturday, as for just the second time in program history, a pair of former West Virginia University pitchers squared off on the mound in a Major League Baseball game.
The matchup featured 2014 MLB Draft choice John Means, the presumptive ace of the Baltimore Orioles (52-109) staff, going against 2019 first round draft pick Alek Manoah, who has already proven himself to be one of the top arms north of the border.
Not only was this just the second time that a pair of former Mountaineers faced off on the mound, but it’s the first time that it’s happened with a pair of starting pitchers.
Members of the Mountaineers coaching staff were on hand to watch.
Manoah picked up a pair of strikeouts in the first inning and didn’t look back from there.
The Florida native dominated the Orioles lineup, collecting ten strikeouts and allowing just one hit in seven innings of work. Manoah’s lone hit allowed came in the second inning to Trey Mancini, who ultimately came around to score Baltimore’s only run of the game.
“He’s aggressive in the strike zone, got great movement to his fastball,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde told reporters afterwards. “He’s got a good slider to go with it. Made it really tough. We’re majority right-handed. That’s a tough matchup for us. Came out with purpose today and he pitched outstanding.”
Means, meanwhile, didn’t have his best stuff on Saturday.
Means, who threw a no-hitter earlier this year, lasted just three innings on the mound and gave up seven runs (six earned) on seven hits. Three of the seven hits he surrendered were home runs off the bats of Blue Jays (90-71) sluggers.
“He’s dealing with a little bit of an illness and it just felt like the fastball velocity wasn’t quite there,” Hyde said. “He just looked tired, to be honest with you.”
“Just tried to give everything I had today, and it wasn’t very much,” Means added.
This game wasn’t just big for Mountaineer fans, but it was big for the Blue Jays organization as a whole.
With the win, combined with other results from Saturday, the Blue Jays remain squarely in the hunt for an American League Wild Card spot.
“It’s October baseball and we’re trying to make a push,” Manoah told reporters after the game. “We’re just focused on controlling what we can control.”
Toronto currently sits just one game back of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, who control two two Wild Card spots.
Manoah, who now owns a 9-2 record on the year, retired each of the final twelve batters he faced Saturday. The rookie lowered his earned run average to 3.22, and has picked up the win in each of the his last four starts. Two of those wins came over Tampa Bay, which owns the best record in the AL.
Manoah now has 127 strikeouts this season, easily a rookie record for any former Mountaineer pitcher.
In fact, Manoah’s 127 Ks are just seven behind Means’ 134 this season. Both of those totals are the highest for any former Mountaineer pitcher in one season in the big leagues.
Saturday’s outing on the mound was the last of the season for Means.
Sunday will go a long way in determining if it’s the final time Manoah takes the bump this season. Regardless, it’s been a fantastic rookie campaign for the former Big 12 Pitcher of the Year.