Baseball / MLB

Tanaka outpitches Kikuchi to help Yankees top Mariners


Masahiro Tanaka outpitched Yusei Kikuchi in a showdown of Japanese starters and Aaron Judge became the third-fastest player in MLB history to reach 100 home runs as the New York Yankees beat the Seattle Mariners 7-0 on Tuesday night.

With plenty of attention back home in Japan, the 16th matchup all-time between Japanese starting pitchers in the majors ended up being one-sided. Tanaka didn’t give up a hit until Kyle Seager’s double leading off the fifth inning. Kikuchi was done after only four innings, five runs allowed and nearly 100 pitches.

Tanaka (10-7) won for the third time in his past four decisions, allowing just three hits. He struck out seven and Seager was the only baserunner to reach third base. Tanaka was able to stay down in the strike zone and Seattle had eight groundball outs.

The Mariners were hopeful of seeing another brilliant performance from their young left-hander after seeing him throw a two-hitter in his last start on Aug. 18 against the Blue Jays. But the decision to skip his last turn in the rotation and give Kikuchi extra rest didn’t yield the desired result.

Kikuchi (5-9) was hit hard from the start. Judge’s homer was the highlight of the first, but Mike Ford continued his hot streak with a long double in the second before Kikuchi was knocked around for four hits in the third, including Gardner’s 18th home run.

Kikuchi threw 96 pitches in his complete game against Toronto; he threw 95 to complete four innings against the Yankees.

Tanaka has been involved in four of the past five matchups between Japanese starters. The last came on June 23, 2017, when he opposed Yu Darvish. The first matchup between Japanese starters also included Seattle and New York. Hideki Irabu started for the Yankees and Mac Suzuki for Seattle on May 7, 1999, at Yankee Stadium.

Judge joined elite company on the first pitch he saw from Kikuchi, hitting a two-run homer off the batter’s eye in center field in the first inning. He reached the 100-homer mark in his 371st game. Only Ryan Howard (325) and Yankees teammate Gary Sanchez (355) got to 100 faster. It was Judge’s 17th homer of the season after going deep in all three games at Dodger Stadium last weekend.

Brett Gardner added a three-run homer off Kikuchi and there was more than enough offense on a night Tanaka was dominant.

Cubs 5, Mets 2

In New York, Yu Darvish pitched eight masterful innings, Javier Baez homered and drove in three runs, and Chicago took the opener of a pivotal three-game series in the National League wild-card race.

The pinpoint right-hander issued his first walk in six starts since July 23. Todd Frazier drew the free pass leading off the fifth, ending a streak of 142 batters without a base on balls for Darvish.

“Sad about the walk. Four-pitch walk,” Darvish said, shaking his head.

“I tried to throw a strike, but I couldn’t throw a strike,” he added later. “So I feel like, embarrassed.”

Darvish (5-6) allowed five hits and struck out seven in his deepest start since lasting eight innings with Texas against Tampa Bay on July 21, 2017. Still, he wasn’t completely satisfied.

“Stuff wasn’t sharp enough,” Darvish said. “Just game plan and pitch selection was — from me — perfect.”

In Other Games

Diamondbacks 3, Giants 2

Cardinals 6, Brewers 3

Pirates 5, Phillies 4

Dodgers 9, Padres 0

Reds 8, Marlins 5

Orioles 2, Nationals 0

Red Sox 10, Rockies 6

Athletics 2, Royals 1

Astros 15, Rays 1

Blue Jays 3, Braves 1

Twins 3, White Sox 1

Indians 10, Tigers 1

Angels 5, Rangers 2