TORONTO -- There's a whole lot riding on Alek Manoah's first career playoff start, but the Toronto Blue Jays All-Star right-hander isn't the least bit fazed about facing the Seattle Mariners in today's wild-card opener.
"My high school coach used to say pressure is something you put in your tires," Manoah joked Thursday. "This is just baseball. It's just a game. Just got to go out there, have some fun and leave the pressure for your tires."
Luis Castillo starts Game 1 for Seattle, making its first postseason appearance since 2001. The Mariners went 5-2 against Toronto this season.
Manoah was 16-7 with a 2.44 ERA in his second big league season, anchoring a rotation that also includes two righties with $100 million-plus contracts, Kevin Gausman and Jose Berrios.
Still, with his combination of performance and big game poise, Manoah was Toronto's clear-cut choice to take the ball in the opener.
"It feels like he's been ready for this moment since he signed," interim Blue Jays Manager John Schneider said of Manoah. "He lives for moments like this and embraces everything that comes with it, but still keeps the task at hand in the forefront. We're excited for him to get us going."
Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins certainly shares that excitement.
"Alek has been nothing short of remarkable," Atkins said. "I haven't been around a pitcher like him."
Likewise, Mariners Manager Scott Servais has reason to feel good about Castillo, who went 4-2 with a 3.17 ERA in 11 starts for Seattle after being acquired from Cincinnati at the trade deadline.
"I couldn't be any more confident in sending anybody out there," Servais said. "When you have a high-end guy like that, the fact that we traded for him, we just signed him to a long-term deal, it's perfect timing."
A strong performance in Game 1 could be crucial in this best-of-three matchup.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays, however, will get an extra edge from playing the entire series at home, where a loud, rabid fan base is ready for its first in-person look at postseason baseball since 2016, when Toronto made the second of consecutive ALCS appearances.
That 2016 team beat Baltimore at home to win what was then a one-game wild-card showdown, with Edwin Encarnacion's 11th-inning home run sending Toronto to the division series.
When the six-year anniversary of Encarnacion's blast passed on Tuesday, a video highlight of the home run showed up on Manoah's Twitter feed, leading to a flurry of repeat views from the current Jays star.
"I couldn't believe the energy and the atmosphere," Manoah said. "The building was shaking, man. I've kind of been using that to feel some of that energy that's going to be there tomorrow."