Kikuchi's strong outing derailed by injury

June 6th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Mariners left-hander was forced to exit Saturday night's 12-5 loss to the Halos at Angel Stadium with a right knee contusion after taking a grounder off his leg in the fifth inning.

Kikuchi was hit on the inside of his right knee by a 94.7 mph ground ball from David Fletcher. Seattle's training staff came out to check on Kikuchi, who was then helped off the field and replaced by JT Chargois with no outs and Fletcher on second following a run-scoring throwing error by José Godoy.

Kikuchi ended up working four-plus innings, allowing four runs (two earned) on five hits with eight strikeouts and no walks.

Mariners manager Scott Servais said Kikuchi is day to day and will be looked at on Sunday. Kikuchi did not have an X-ray or MRI on his knee, but Servais said Kikuchi “felt better when he got up in the clubhouse” and he was able to put weight on his injured knee.

Servais added that the contest was “a tale of two ballgames” after Kikuchi’s outing came to an abrupt end.

“I thought he was throwing really well,” Servais said. “His fastball had a lot of life tonight. A really good slider he had going and a couple of awesome changeups. The cutter maybe wasn't quite as dominant as that's been, but the other pitches were all there. He was using them very effectively. Kind of what we've seen throughout the year so far, so he was on top of it. A line drive took him out."

In his first three big league seasons, Kikuchi had struggled against the Angels, holding an 11.32 ERA in five starts entering Saturday. Things, however, turned around for the lefty before leaving with the knee injury.

Kikuchi kept the Angels mostly quiet aside from a pair of solo home runs, one of which came against Shohei Ohtani in the first inning on a first-pitch cutter. Of Kikuchi’s eight strikeouts, all were swinging and six came on his slider.

Kikuchi’s early success and a five-run fourth highlighted by a Jake Fraley grand slam put the Mariners in position to take a series lead against the Angels.

But in a crucial spot following Kikuchi’s exit, Chargois was unable to hold Fletcher at second base as Anthony Rendon drove him in, bringing the Angels within a run at 5-4. An inning later, the recently activated Drew Steckenrider gave up a two-run homer run to Taylor Ward that gave the lead back to the Angels.

“Our bullpen was not up to its normal standard,” Servais said. “We've been so consistent in our bullpen. Tonight, we really struggled with that. A rough ballgame.”

Steckenrider, who was activated from the COVID IL on Saturday, had been a consistent arm out of Seattle's bullpen. He held a 2.45 ERA in 18 1/3 innings before going on the injured list and quarantining for two weeks.

“Steck has been throwing the ball really good and, obviously, missed some time with COVID,” Servais said. “I thought his stuff was actually pretty sharp. His fastball had life on it. He hung a breaking ball. He had an 0-1 count on Ward. He got him to chase early. He just left [it] right in the middle. [Ward] was all over it. He got a good swing off on it.”