‘It’s a team he hasn’t faired very well against,” said M’s manager on Kikuchi’s record vs. Angels
Thousands lined up outside T-Mobile Park on Sunday morning, waiting for early entry to witness greatness. They filtered through the gates hours before any baseball was played, and gazed up at the screen in center field to watch a beloved former Seattle Mariners player get inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Fans cheered as Edgar Martinez, one of the most feared hitters during the nearly two decades he played here, took the stage. They frequently applauded as he thanked former coaches, teammates and the city for support throughout his career.
Many wore the jersey of the player who is credited with helping save baseball in Seattle with the extra-innings RBI double that won the Mariners the American League Division Series in 1995.
But, as Sunday afternoon wore on, and the celebration concluded, this current Seattle team couldn’t recapture any magic, and the reality of this lost 2019 season came crashing back. There were far fewer cheers from the crowd of 24,767 as the Mariners slogged through another deflating loss, dropping their series finale against the Angels, 9-3.
“Our guys continue to work really hard, some days we just get out-manned, we don’t play a perfect game, we make an error, we don’t get a big hit,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We had 12 hits today, but we only had (a few) guys in scoring position. We’ve got to do better than that in this league. We understand that. We’ll continue to work and grind it out.”
Seattle (40-62) has just one win in its eight games back since the All-Star break, which came in Friday’s series opener, and Mike Leake had to toss eight perfect innings, and Daniel Vogelbach crushed a pair of three-run homers to make that one happen. The Mariners have three wins in their past 18 games, and haven’t strung together consecutive wins since June, as they drift further away from playoff contention for the 18th straight season.
Rookie left-hander Yusei Kikuchi continued to struggle in his fifth start against the Angels this season, allowing a season-high seven earned runs on nine hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings. He hasn’t pitched more than five complete frames in any outing against Los Angeles, or allowed less than three earned runs, and has an 11.32 ERA against the Angels in 20 2/3 innings.
“They have a really good balance in their lineup,” Kikuchi said through interpreter Justin Novak. “Everyone can make contact, everyone can drive the ball. That’s what I’ve noticed.”
Kikuchi retired the first five batters in order — including striking out countryman Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton — but Albert Pujols gave the Angels the decisive lead in the second, pushing an outside, first-pitch fastball over the fence in right. Kikuchi then worked his way out of a scoreless fourth before Los Angeles did damage over the next two innings.
The Angels strung together five consecutive hits in the fourth as part of a four-run frame. Pujols hit a two-out single, and Brian Goodwin promptly homered behind him. Dustin Garneau singled, then Luis Rengifo hit a soft fly ball to right that bounced off the glove of a sliding Domingo Santana that turned into a run-scoring triple. David Fletcher beat out an infield single the following at-bat to score Rengifo and make it 5-0. Each of the Angels’ first five runs came with two outs.
Ohtani led off the fifth with a double then scored on Upton’s double. A Pujols sac fly scored Upton two-batters later to give the Angels a seven-run advantage. Kikuchi finished the inning, but exited after just 74 pitches.
“It’s been a little something different every time with Yusei against the Angels,” Servais said. “It’s certainly a team he hasn’t fared very well against. They put the bat on the ball. The Angels are tough to strike out, and they kind of grind some at-bats against him.
“He’ll stay after it as he continues to learn and go through a lot of different things this year. ... I still like the stuff and where it’s at. Fortunately, we won’t have to face the Angels again this year. We will not see them again. So, he’ll move forward and make his next start.”
Servais said he expected some growing pains during Kikuchi’s first season in the majors after pitching the past eight professionally in Japan.
“I knew there would be an adjustment period as the league got to know him and see him, and what he does and how he does it,” Servais said. “He’s got a little deception with his delivery. But, as more people see him, that deception and the newness kind of wears off.
“He’s a good competitor. He continues to work his tail off. ... I fully expect him to continue to learn, and he’ll bounce back and get it trending in the right direction here as we head down the stretch.”
Erik Swanson and Matt Festa each completed two innings in relief, but both allowed home runs. Swanson worked through a scoreless sixth before Mike Trout crushed his American League-leading 32nd home run in the seventh. Garneau added another solo shot in the eighth off Festa, though Festa struck out five of the seven batters he faced in the final two frames.
“He continues to work a lot with (bullpen coach) Jim Brower down in the bullpen on some different mechanical things, and it certainly played out today,” Servais said of Festa. “And the usage of his pitches was really good today. That’s how he needs to pitch — keep the fastball low and away, work the slider off of it. He threw a ton of strikes and was very aggressive.”
As it has been since the All-Star break — the Mariners have scored more than three runs in a game just once in the second half — Seattle’s offense was mostly quiet. The Mariners strung together 12 hits — equaling what the Angels produced — though few came in the same inning. They stranded 12 in the game.
Austin Nola and Dee Gordon — who was 3-for-4 — hit back-to-back singles in the seventh, and Nola scratched across Seattle’s first run on what turned into a Mallex Smith double down the third-base line that was misplayed by Fletcher.
The Mariners scored twice more in the ninth. Smith drew a one-out walk, Dylan Moore followed with a single and Santana sent a sharp liner back up the middle to score Smith. Moore then scored on a wild pitch.