Yusei Kikuchi dominant in series-clinching win over the Yankees

Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski - USA Today
Nick Prasad
12 days ago
The Blue Jays entered game two of a three-game set against the New York Yankees on Tuesday night at the Rogers Center. After a Blue Jays victory the day before, both clubs turn to southpaws to battle it out in this American League East showdown.
The Yankees sent Carlos Rodon to the hill while Toronto went with Yusei Kikuchi. Rodon had pitched in four games prior to this start, 15 2/3 innings. How did he look in this matchup? Not so tough. Rodon’s final line tells the story of the night. He lasted only four innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits with four walks and five strikeouts. 
The Blue Jays’ offence was not at all overpowering, and once again, the long ball was not a factor. Toronto strung together some decent situational hitting and a base-to-base small-ball approach to push runners across the dish.
 Rodon was responsible for four free 90s in bases-on-balls. The Yankees bullpen somewhat picked him up as they kept the Blue Jays at a steady pace; Toronto was 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position, leaving a total of 10 on-base. He now sits 1-1 on the year with a 3.66 ERA. 
The bigger picture in this game was the performance of Yusei Kikuchi. Kikuchi’s projections for the year scream positivity and hope. His 2023 performance is now bleeding into this season and slowly expanding outward into the dominance category. 
Kikuchi pitched six strong innings last night and absolutely carved the Yankees’ lineup. His performance was immaculate, as his pitching ability was consistent, and his ability to field his position was also very noticeable. In six innings, he allowed one earned run on four hits and only one walk, and he struck out nine Yankee bats. His one walk came in the second inning, and he never lost a batter after that. 
The key to Kikuchi’s dominance was pitch placement and pitch effectiveness. He was hitting spots and staying out of danger zones. Kikuchi noticed patterns and weaknesses in his matchups; he was able to use these observations to tailor his approach. The Yankees lineup from two to five are as elite as it gets. He kept those four power-sticks as quiet as a mouse, 2-for-16 (Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Anthony Rizzo) with no RBIs. The Yankees were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, leaving five on base. 
Kikuchi worked the zone well and stayed away from trouble. His fastball was up to 98 mph and he was able to create deception while mixing in his off-speed. His fastball ran up to eye-level out of the zone, creating chase opportunities for some of the more “vertically-blessed” hitters in the Yankee lineup. His slider was on-point and used more frequently; hitters were not able to read or adjust to this pitch. 
Kikuchi threw 94 pitches, 62 of which were strikes, 14 of which were first-pitch strikes. He had 17 called strikes and 13 swinging strikes. His temperature and composure have been a huge winning factor for his showing so far this season. If his confidence and approach keep up, the win column will likely stack up for Kikuchi. 

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