Hours after Marco Gonzales was transferred to the injured record on Thursday, Kikuchi twirled a gem within the Mariners’ 1-0 victory at Minute Maid Park, no-hitting the Astros by way of 6 1/3 innings earlier than permitting an opposite-field double to Carlos Correa. Kikuchi completed his seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts and two walks, an exhibition of the southpaw at his most dominant.
“I can’t say sufficient about his competitiveness right this moment,” supervisor Scott Servais mentioned. “That’s what actually stood out to me.”
Kikuchi had each pitch in his arsenal working towards Houston, however none greater than his cutter, which generated 21 referred to as strikes and whiffs.
With all his stuff working, Kikuchi not solely stored the American League’s highest-scoring offense off the scoreboard however on the bottom, producing 10 floor balls in line with Statcast, which is tied for probably the most in a single sport in his profession. Within the backside of the second inning, all three outs got here on the bottom, all of the extra spectacular given Houston’s depth of weapons.
“I used to be capable of go inside laborious with my cutter, and go tender and away with my changeup,” Kikuchi mentioned by way of an interpreter. “That performed very well right this moment. Controlling the peak, as nicely, on all of my pitches.”
Kikuchi’s masterful outing got here following the information that Gonzales will miss his subsequent couple of begins with a left forearm pressure, the newest setback to a beginning rotation that has already suffered a number of blows.
Together with Gonzales, James Paxton underwent season-ending surgical procedure final week and Nick Margevicius was identified with left shoulder irritation. The Mariners have already dipped into their bullpen for assist, selling lengthy man Ljay Newsome to the rotation. It’s removed from the place the Mariners wish to be earlier than Might has even begun.
Down a number of arms, Kikuchi understood the additional weight that he and the opposite starters should carry.
“Not simply myself, however your entire workers undoubtedly must step up and throw lengthy innings deep into the ball sport,” Kikuchi mentioned. “An additional inning, even simply an additional out.”
Kikuchi displayed his willingness to file each out doable within the backside of the seventh with a positive show of athleticism. Yuli Gurriel hit a chopper proper in entrance of dwelling plate that spelled bother, however Kikuchi made a tough first step towards dwelling earlier than fielding the ball on a slide, spinning and firing to first for the out. The southpaw made the play look straightforward; it was something however.
Heart fielder Taylor Trammell made a positive play in his personal proper to finish the sport, activating his afterburners and making a sliding catch to chase down a shallow fly ball. As soon as Trammell had the ball secured, he grinned and caught out his tongue. For all of Trammell’s theatrics, he thought his starter’s defensive spotlight reigned supreme.
“I talked to Yusei once we acquired into the locker room,” Trammell mentioned. “I just about simply advised him, ‘Hey, I attempted to be such as you proper there.’ He made a greater play than me right this moment.”
Trammell was additionally nearly on the opposite aspect of a fantastic little bit of glove work. The rookie offered the sport’s lone run by way of a house run that hardly cleared the fence. Proper fielder Chas McCormick leapt and acquired the tip of his glove on the ball, however was unable to reel it in.
“I assumed it was a 50/50 ball,” Trammell mentioned. “If something, I assumed it was going to hit the wall. I do know I acquired it fairly respectable off the bat. Then, once I noticed McCormick go up, I used to be praying — I used to be like, ‘Look, dude, do not do it to me proper now.’”
On a day sullied by the lack of Gonzales, Trammell and the Mariners will gladly settle for the fortunate break.
With their ace sidelined, Seattle’s starters have a heavy burden to carry over the following handful of video games. And Kikuchi set the tone. Now, it’s value seeing the place the rotation goes from right here.