Instant Reaction: Yusei Kikuchi serves as Blue Jays hand Yankees first home opener shutout loss since 1967

Photo credit:Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
3 months ago
To find the last time the New York Yankees suffered a shutout loss in a home opener, one has to flip the calendar back to 1967.
It was on April 14th of that year when the Bronx Bombers hosted the Boston Red Sox at Yankees stadium, falling 3-0.
Since then, the Yankees have always found a way to plate runs in their first home game of the season. That is, until they met the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday afternoon.
Yusei Kikuchi pitched five and one-third excellent scoreless innings, striking out seven batters while allowing just four hits and two walks. The Jays got hot at the plate at the right time, and it led them to a 3-0 victory of their own.

Kikuchi serves

Some of Kikuchi’s finest work came in the third inning, striking out Jose Trevino, allowing a Gleyber Torres single on the seventh pitch of the at-bat, before striking out Juan Soto on just three pitches. While he issued a free pass on seven pitches to Aaron Judge, he warred with Giancarlo Stanton before striking him out on the eighth pitch of the at-bat with a curveball that kissed the bottom of the zone.
He followed it up with an even better fourth, in which it took him nine pitches to induce ground outs to Anthony Rizzo and Alex Verdugo and a flyout to Anthony Volpe.

The plate work works

The Jays bats struggled to get much off starter Marcus Stroman, instead doing their damage off the Yankees bullpen.
And it was none other than Ernie Clement who kicked that off, pinch-hitting for Cavan Biggio in the top of the seventh inning. After watching reliever Chad Ferguson drop a sinker well under the zone, he took the second pitch — a 92.5 MPH fastball 407-feet into the left field bleachers to give the Jays their first lead of the day.
Toronto couldn’t get much going in the rest of the inning or in the eighth, but in the top of the ninth, they found a way to get things done. After Clement flew out to start the inning, Alejandro Kirk put a line drive single into the outfield, getting himself on first. Daulton Varsho singled up the middle, and all of a sudden the Jays had two runners on with just one out.
The Yankees replaced Dennis Santana with Nick Burdi, as skipper John Schneider pinch-ran Brian Serven for Kirk. This proved to be a crucial substitution, as both base runners advanced off a wild pitch. Isiah Kiner-Falefa would take a walk to first, loading the bases for George Springer.
Burdi would throw another wild pitch, giving Serven enough time and space to race home for a free run, extending the lead to 2-0. Springer took a five-pitch walk of his own as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stepped into the box. Once again, another wild pitch would come as Varsho sprinted home, making this a 3-0 game.
While those runs would prove enough in the long run, it was undoubtedly disappointing to see Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette who follows, strike out and line out as runners remained in scoring position.

RISP woes and poor swing decisions

There’s no denying the Jays should be happy with the win. They fought through tough stretches of this game and capitalized on the Yankees’ mistakes. That’s important, and something they didn’t do in Houston.
But what continues to be a concern is the Jays’ RISP woes, which have seemingly followed from last season into this. They went 0-for-6 Friday, dropping their batting average to .125 with runners in scoring position. They’re now going 8-for-48 on the season.
What’s peculiar is it’s quite a change from Spring Training, which is only a week and a half old, where their .278 batting average with RISP was the sixth in the Big Leagues. Their current .125 is worst in the league, and a far cry from the .260 they had last year, which was still 12th in the league.
There’s lots of runway left, but it’s an undoubtedly concerning development early this year.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.


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