Baseball / MLB

Mariners lefty Yusei Kikuchi holds Blue Jays to two hits in first MLB shutout

AP, Kyodo

After watching his team use seven pitchers Saturday, Seattle’s Yusei Kikuchi wanted to give the bullpen a break.

His first big league shutout fit the bill perfectly.

Kikuchi needed just 96 pitches to complete a two-hitter Sunday that led the Mariners over the Toronto Blue Jays 7-0 in Seattle’s third shutout of the season.

Kikuchi (5-8) struck out eight, walked one and retired the final 14 batters in his first win since beating Baltimore on June 23. The rookie left-hander went 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA in eight starts, covering 40 innings, between victories.

“It being a bullpen day yesterday for the team, I felt like I was able to step up,” Kickuchi said through a translator. “I haven’t been getting the results I’ve wanted to and I felt like I was good for the team today, so I was proud of that.”

The 28-year-old Kikuchi was a star in Japan for the Seibu Lions before signing a $56 million, four-year deal with Seattle in the offseason. This was his 26th start for the Mariners and first complete game.

“Yusei was really focused today,” manager Scott Servais said. “Outstanding. Heck of an outing. If you can throw a complete game anywhere at any time in the big leagues in less than 100 pitches, it really doesn’t get any better than that.”

Kikuchi threw the fewest pitches in a Mariners shutout since Felix Hernandez threw 95 in a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 28, 2006. Richie Sexson and Kenji Johjima drove in the runs in that game.

Sunday’s outing was in stark contrast to Kikuchi’s performance against the Detroit Tigers last Tuesday, when he gave up nine hits and five runs on 81 pitches and exited early in the fourth.

He attributed some of the turnaround to putting more power into his fastball at crucial moments.

“Until now, when I wanted to get a strikeout, I wasn’t raising my speed on the decisive pitches and I was allowing a lot of hits like that,” he said.

“I think the gap between the most I can give and the most I think I can give is smaller than I thought.”

Tom Murphy hit a two-run homer and the Mariners went deep four times. Kyle Seager, Austin Nola and Keon Broxton added solo home runs for Seattle.

“Up and down the lineup, guys are contributing big homers, which is awesome,” Servais said. “That’s what it takes.”

Toronto was held scoreless for the 10th time and second time in six games. The Blue Jays, who were blanked 11 times all of last season, lost 1-0 last Sunday in a game started by Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees.

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, who was without injured sluggers Vladimir Gurrero Jr. (left knee) and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (left quadriceps), said Kikuchi was able to take advantage of Toronto’s depleted lineup.

“It was a combination of him doing his job and our approach was not that great today,” Montoyo said.

Seager extended his hitting streak to a season-high 12 games with a leadoff homer against Toronto opener Wilmer Font in the second, his 16th of the season and second in two games. Seager has homered seven times during his hitting streak, and 10 times during a stretch in which he’s hit safely in 22 of 23 games.

Seager’s homer was the first run off Font in five opening appearances this month. The right-hander had gone 9⅓ innings without giving up a run. Font is 2-1 with Toronto and Tampa Bay this season and 3-3 overall after going 1-1 in 15 games with the New York Mets in April and May.

Thomas Pannone took over in the third, and the Mariners connected twice off the left-hander in a three-run fourth. Nola hit a leadoff shot, his sixth, and Murphy hit a two-out drive, his 13th.

Broxton made it 5-0 with a leadoff drive off right-hander Sam Gaviglio in the seventh.

Kikcuhi set down the first six batters before Brandon Drury doubled to begin the third. Drury was nearly doubled off when shortstop Dee Gordon made a sliding catch on Billy McKinney’s short flare into left, but second baseman Nola couldn’t hold Gordon’s throw. Bo Bichette flied out to end the inning.

Randal Grichuk hit a one-out single in the fourth but Kikuchi struck out Teoscar Hernandez and got Justin Smoak to fly out.

Toronto’s Rowdy Tellez walked to begin the fifth but was erased one out later when Danny Jansen grounded into a double play.

Angels 9, White Sox 2

In Anaheim, rookie pitcher Griffin Canning had perhaps the best start of his career, going seven innings and allowing just one run, and catcher Anthony Bemboom, another rookie, hit his first homer in the majors to lead Los Angeles to the win.

Shohei Ohtani, Kole Calhoun and Matt Thaiss also homered to back Canning (5-6), who went seven innings for only the second time.

Ohtani hit his first home run since July 27 and just his second since the All-Star break. He has a nine-game hit streak, the longest of his young career.

“He’s continued to get his hits and continued to be part of the offense, so I haven’t been concerned,” manager Brad Ausmus said.

In Other Games

Indians 8, Yankees 4

Red Sox 13, Orioles 7

Astros 4, Athletics 1

Rays 5, Tigers 4

Twins 6, Rangers 3

Mets 11, Royals 5

Cubs 7, Pirates 1

Braves 5, Dodgers 3

Cardinals 5, Reds 4

Nationals 16, Brewers 8

Padres 3, Phillies 2

Rockies 7, Marlins 6 (10)

Diamondbacks 6, Giants 1