Tim Kurkjian on Alek Manoah The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast

Longtime ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian is the latest guest on The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast, and he's a big fan of former Mountaineer Alek Manoah. In this interview with Ryan Decker, Kurkjian breaks down Manoah's presence on the mound, and explains why the pitcher's career with the Blue Jays has begun with so much success.  Kurkjian also dishes on another former Mountaineer, John Means, who will miss the remainder of the MLB season due to injury. The Orioles ace is the only former Mountaineer to throw a big league no-hitter. 

A t-shirt designed by Alek Manoah was handed out to the first 15,000 fans in attendance in Toronto on Wednesday night.

Manoah (9-2, 2.09 ERA) designed the t-shirt and, it could be argued, designed much of how of the first five innings went while he was out on the mound.

However, one mistake pitch put a slight damper on the performance of the featured player on the promotional giveaway.

A two-out, two-run home run for Boston in the sixth inning not only erased the Blue Jays’ lead, but took away Manoah’s chance of earning his 10th win of the year.

RELATED: Manoah talks meditation, MLB career with Jomboy Media’s Chris Rose

Game Recap

The former Mountaineer was sharp once again, recording six strikeouts in seven innings pitched, and throwing 70 percent of his pitches for strikes.

Manoah retired the first six batters he faced in order. He registered a pair of strikeouts in the first inning, and matched that number of punchouts in the second. Manoah was dealing early on the strength of his fastball.

A leadoff bunt single against the shift by Franchy Cordero in the third inning was the only hit that Manoah surrendered through his first four innings of work.

The big right-hander allowed an unearned run to score in the third. He responded with a three-up, three-down fourth inning, and then by getting a huge strikeout on a 97-mile-per-hour fastball that helped strand two runners in scoring position in the fifth.

Manoah retired the first two batters he faced in the sixth, but an infield single extended the frame. Three pitches later, Alex Verdugo blasted a two-run homer to give Boston a 3-2 lead.

Manoah needed just nine pitches to complete the seventh inning. It was his last of the night. Luckily, the Blue Jays scored one run in the eighth inning to help their starter take a no-decision.

Final score: Boston 6, Toronto 5, 10 innings.

Elite company

Manoah joined an elite group of pitchers throughout Major League Baseball history on Wednesday.

According to Codify, Manoah became just the fourth American League starting pitcher over the last 100 years to strike out 200 or more batters, and post a sub-2.75 ERA in his first 34 career starts.

The other three: Vida Blue, Nolan Ryan, and Ron Guidry.

RELATED: Projecting the future of Alek Manoah’s career

Ryan, of course, is one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history. And the trio combined for 18 all-star nominations in their careers.

On a record-setting pace

Even with the home run in the sixth inning, Manoah is within reach of setting yet another Blue Jays record.

Manoah made his 15th start of the season on Wednesday. He exited with a 2.09 ERA. That is the second-best mark in Blue Jays franchise history for any starting pitcher who has made at least 15 starts in a season.

The club mark is owned by Roger Clemens, who held a 2.05 ERA through 34 starts in 1997.

Efficient and dependable

The 2019 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year entered Wednesday’s game averaging the 10th fewest pitches per inning (14.7) in Major League Baseball.

He threw a total of 99 pitches against the Red Sox, as he averaged 14.1 pitches per inning to improve his season average.

Additionally, Manoah has now completed six innings on the mound in 13 of his 15 starts this year. He has recorded at least one out in the seventh inning five times this season.

The WVU alum has allowed two or fewer earned runs in every start but one, as he continues to be part of the Cy Young Award conversation.

Next up

Manoah is scheduled to make at least two more starts before the all-star break. He is slated to be on the mound in Oakland on Independence Day.

After that, he will toe the rubber in Seattle on July 9th. That game will be nationally televised on ESPN+.