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Jays’ Yusei Kikuchi to face former team as Mariners come to town

Sportsnaut
May 4, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN;  Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi (16) stretches between batters in the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Yusei Kikuchi will face his former team for the first time Monday night, and the visiting Seattle Mariners should be a happy bunch.

Both teams have struggled this season, but the Mariners held on Sunday to defeat the New York Mets 8-7 in the rubber match of a three-game series.

It was the first road series victory of the season for the Mariners, and it opened a 10-game trip. It was the first series loss for the Mets.

The three-game series with the Mariners will open a six-game homestand for the Blue Jays. They dropped the rubber match of a three-game series 3-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday to complete a 2-7 trip. They have lost four straight series as their hitting woes continue.

Kikuchi (1-1, 4.15 ERA) signed with the Blue Jays as a free agent after pitching three seasons with the Mariners. He was 15-24 with a 4.97 ERA, over 70 starts with Seattle.

After a slow start this season, he is 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA in his past two starts.

The Mariners will start right-hander Chris Flexen (1-5, 4.24) on Monday. In two career outings against Toronto, he has no wins or losses and a 4.09 ERA over 11 innings.

The Mariners, who are 7-12 on the road, outpitched Mets starter Max Scherzer in the first game of the series and chased Carlos Carrasco in the fifth inning in winning the third game to take the series.

“That was a very entertaining series, three one-run games, though I would have preferred them not to be all one-run, but we’ll take it,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.

Julio Rodriguez, the Mariners’ 21-year-old center fielder, reached base five times in five plate appearances on Sunday. He had the first four-hit game of his career, including his second homer of the season and an RBI single.

After a slow start, he is adjusting to major-league life.

“I feel like the more you are around it and the more you see stuff, the more you adjust,” Rodriguez said. “That’s something that I felt very comfortable with, kind of stepping out of my comfort zone and learning and seeing what they are actually going to try to do to me. I’ve been able to learn.”

At St. Petersburg, Fla., the Blue Jays lost games started by their best two pitchers — Kevin Gausman on Friday and Alek Manoah on Sunday.

Manoah allowed three runs (one earned) in six innings Sunday. All three runs came in the sixth, with one run scoring on an error by usually sure-handed third baseman Matt Chapman and another on a wild pitch.

“We’re just going through a little phase right now,” Manoah said. “This clubhouse is going to stay together, and this offense is going to show up. No matter how good we pitch, if we don’t win a ball game, it doesn’t matter.”

“You’ve got to pitch and play defense to win games,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “I didn’t expect our offense to struggle like we did. We didn’t play a clean game, but our offense didn’t do anything. When you’re not hitting, there’s no room for error.”

“I know that if you talk to any guy on our team right now, they’d probably think that they could be playing better than they are,” Chapman said. “I think it’s one of the things when we’re in the middle of the summer and we’re rolling we can look back and remember May and maybe how it made us stronger.”

–Field Level Media