With Opening Day starter Marco Gonzales missing more than five weeks with a strained left forearm, the Seattle Mariners needed someone to take the reigns atop the rotation.
Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi made a giant leap and has been rewarded with his first trip to the All-Star Game as the Mariners’ lone representative on the American League squad.
Kikuchi (6-3, 3.18 ERA) is scheduled to get his last start before the July 13 midsummer classic when the Mariners host the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.
“First off, extremely happy,” Kikuchi told reporters through an interpreter. “I’m very happy to hear this news. And more importantly, I just feel really thankful for my teammates, coaches, just everyone being there for me, and my family just always supporting me through the ups and downs, especially my first two years here.”
Kikuchi went 8-15 with a 5.39 ERA in his first two seasons with the Mariners before turning it around this year.
“When I first came over here, I was going to face, not just the highest level, highest competition in baseball, but I knew I would run into a few obstacles here and there,” Kikuchi said. “And I was able to, I feel like, overcome those.”
Kikuchi, who has won his past five decisions, has allowed three earned runs or less in each of his past 11 appearances — with nine quality starts during that span. He’s 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in two career starts against the Yankees.
“Yusei is always trying to get better,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “And that’s kind of been our theme around here the last couple years — ‘doesn’t matter, get better.’ He’s got a ton of confidence. He knows he’s a part of our ballclub going forward. Now he really is the leader of our staff, and every time he goes out there, he’s expected to go deep in the game and win the ballgame.”
The Yankees are set to counter with right-hander Domingo German (4-5, 4.50), who is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in one start against Seattle.
German has struggled recently, allowing 18 runs — 17 earned — over 15 1/3 innings in his past four outings.
“One of the things that usually gets me in trouble is my balance on the mound,” German said through an interpreter. “I’m falling off to one side, and that’s what causes my command to not be as good.”
New York won the series opener 12-1 Tuesday night as Luke Voit had a career-high five hits and Giancarlo Stanton and Rougned Odor hit three-run homers.
With an 11-run lead, beleaguered Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth despite loading the bases with a single and two walks. The left-hander did strike out the side.
With the Yankees having an off day Monday, Chapman took to Instagram to share his thoughts.
“For all those people that criticize my bad moments, I will tell them that I do not know how my story ends, but in its pages you will never read, ‘I gave up,’ ” Chapman wrote. “So I will move on. I still have many wars to win and many mouths to shut up.”
–Field Level Media