Kikuchi struggles as Blue Jays bats silenced in loss to Yankees

Article content

NEW YORK — One spin through the rotation and not surprisingly the Blue Jays starters have some work to do.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Of course, looks can be disappointing early in a season, especially one distorted by abbreviated prep time.

More on that later, but a dynamic effort from Alek Manoah on Monday and a solid outing by Kevin Gausman in the second game of the season aside, the other three slots in the Jays starting five may have some rust to shed.

Yusei Kikuchi, making his Jays debut on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, was the latest to struggle as the Bronx Bombers got him enough to record a 4-0 win.

A sleepy Jays offense wasn’t able to generate a run, much less a threat, allowing the Yankees to square the four-game series in the Bronx at a win a piece.

With Yankees hitters seemingly waiting on his slider, Kikuchi was dinged just enough to surrender three runs (one unearned) and was chased after just 3.1 innings.

advertisement 3

Article content

While the damage was limited overall, Kikuchi wasn’t at his sharpest and with a pitch count at 84 didn’t get nearly as deep as manager Charlie Montoyo would have liked given the growing workload on the bullpen through the team’s first five games.

“We wanted him to get close to the fifth inning for sure,” Montoyo said. “But when he left, we were still in the game.”

Kikuchi’s fastball looked sharp once he honed in on the zone, hitting 95 miles per hour. But he wasn’t nearly as aggressive against the Yanks hitters, something he’ll likely change heading into his next start.

“Obviously I would have liked to go deeper in the ball game,” Kikuchi said through an interpreter. “I feel like I fell behind in the count often and early.

advertisement 4

Article content

“I feel like after giving up that two-run homer (to Aaron Hicks in the second inning) it got me going. I started to use my fastball more.

“Next time I’ll be more aggressive with that fastball.”

The rotation returns to the top on Wednesday night here when Opening Day starter Jose Berrios gets a shot at redemption for getting rocked at the Rogers Center this past Friday. Gausman is scheduled to close out the four-game set in the Bronx on Thursday.

Like many teams around baseball, the Jays were expecting starters would be playing catchup following reduced exhibition time in Florida. For example, though he pitched in intra-squad and minor-league games, Kikuchi faced major league hitters from other teams just twice in Grapefruit League play.

advertisement 5

Article content

In that regard, Kikuchi wasn’t unique by any means. The two lost weeks due to the MLB lockout denied the opportunity for starters to properly build up for the season.

Managers like Montoyo have been careful with pitch counts from his starters, eyeing the long game and trying to avoid injury.

“That goes for everyone. Every team,” Montoyo said of lagged preparations for starters. “(Starters) haven’t thrown as much as they’re used to in a regular spring training.”

Workload-wise, the next turn through should see a sharpened group of starters, beginning with what will be a fresh-armed Berrios. After they finish with the Yankees, the Jays return home for a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.


advertisement 6

Article content

After lighting up offensively at the Rogers Center in the three-game series against Texas to open the season, the Jays bats hit their first soft spot, managing just three runs through the opening two games at Yankee Stadium … Yankees starter Nester Cortes allowed just three hits in 4.1 scoreless innings while striking out five, keeping the biggest of Jays bats quiet … The closest the Jays had to a rally came with two out in the eighth when Springer and Bo Bichette each slapped out singles. But when Vlad Guerrero Jr. meekly grounded out to the left side of the infield, that was that.

advertisement 7

Article content

game on

The improved Jays defense denied the Yankees the potential of a couple of runs in the first. It started with an Aaron Judge fly ball to left field that Lourdes Gurriel Jr. corralled at the top of the wall. And then later in the inning, Teoscar Hernandez fielded an Anthony Rizzo fly ball off the right field wall, bobbled it and then gunned down former Jays teammate Josh Donaldson at the plate … The Yankees extended their lead to 3-0 in the fourth when catcher Tyler Heineman — making his first appearance in a major league game since 2020 — threw a pickoff attempt well over the head of first baseman Guerrero that allowed DJ LeMahieu to score … The overworked Jays bullpen was able to keep things within shouting range as a procession of four relievers followed Kikuchi’s early exit. First up was David Phelps, who induced a ground ball double play to end the fourth and limit the damage inflicted on starter Kikuchi… Julian Merryweather and Tim Mayza each pitched scoreless innings before Anthony Kay came on to handle the last two. Kay allowed a run on a sac fly from Giancarlo Stanton in the eighth … Plenty of swing and miss from Jays hitters who struck out 10 times.

advertisement 1


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user follows comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your e-mail settings.

Leave a Comment