Even without Shohei Ohtani in the lineup, nullifying a highly anticipated matchup for Japanese baseball fans, the Los Angeles Angels had no problem solving Yusei Kikuchi this time around.
Kole Calhoun and César Puello homered, Mike Trout had three RBIs and the Angels battered Kikuchi for six early runs in a 9-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night.
The first matchup in the majors between Kikuchi and Ohtani was delayed when Ohtani was given the night off by Los Angeles manager Brad Ausmus. Still, the Angels handed Kikuchi (3-3) a second straight miserable outing.
The rookie gave up 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings, same as his previous game against Oakland. He failed to strike out a batter for the first time in 13 big league starts.
“I have to learn to grind through the games where I’m not having my best stuff,” Kikuchi said through a translator. “That was something I had to work on from my last start and it came up again today, so I’m still working through the adjustments.”
Kikuchi’s problems started immediately with Albert Pujols’ RBI single in the first after the left-hander opened the game with consecutive walks. Calhoun led off the second with his 11th home run and Puello followed an inning later with his second in eight at-bats since being brought up from Triple-A Salt Lake.
Trout ended Kikuchi’s night with a two-run double in the fourth.
“When I first saw him back in Anaheim, you know first time seeing him, it’s tough for a hitter. You’ve got to see what he’s got. Tonight was just trying to get pitches you could hit,” Trout said.
Kikuchi beat the Angels in late April despite giving up 10 hits and four earned runs. The six earned runs allowed Thursday were a season high.
Seattle has planned to give Kikuchi periodic short starts throughout the season to limit his innings, and he could be in line for one his next turn through the rotation.
“We’ll talk about it and sit down with him. I’m more concerned about where he’s at and making sure he’s going to learn from this type of stuff,” manager Scott Servais said. “The nights you don’t have your A game, you have got to figure out a way. That’s what really separates the pitchers in this league.”
The Angels used Luis Garcia as an opener, but it was Félix Peña (3-1) shutting down the Mariners after Garcia’s one inning. Peña threw 5 1/3 innings, allowing three hits and three runs. Tim Beckham hit a two-run homer, his 11th of the season, and later drove in another run on a groundout.
Peña is 3-0 with a 3.13 ERA in six games when the Angels have used an opener and Peña has followed. His performance gave the bullpen a needed rest.
“He did a great job. Early in the season it seemed like his velocity would taper off after 60 or so pitches and even to the last hitter I believe he hit 92 (mph),” Ausmus said. “He has gotten better at maintaining velocity.”
Ausmus said matchups were the reason for not playing Ohtani. Seattle is set to throw three left-handed starters in the series and Ausmus had planned to rest Ohtani for one of the three games. Ohtani had five previous at-bats against Kikuchi in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan, with two hits and three strikeouts.
The next chance for the pair to square off could come next week when Seattle plays a three-game series in Anaheim. If Seattle stays in rotation, Kikuchi could pitch the final game of the series. After next week, the teams don’t meet again until after the All-Star break.
Angels: RHP JC Ramirez is expected to begin a rehab assignment with Class A Inland Empire on Friday. Ramirez is working his way back from Tommy John surgery.
Mariners: RHP Hunter Strickland (lat) will throw a bullpen this weekend. Strickland will likely need a couple of bullpen sessions and a rehab assignment before rejoining the bullpen. … RHP Felix Hernandez (shoulder) is expected to throw a bullpen early next week.
Angels: Tyler Skaggs (4-4) threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings but did not get a decision in his last start. Skaggs is 2-2 with a 4.26 ERA in nine career starts vs. Seattle.
Mariners: Mike Leake (3-6) has lost six of his last seven decisions. Leake allowed five earned runs last time out in a loss to Oakland.
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