Yusei Kikuchi (pronounced YOU-say key-KOO-chee)... Resides for most of the offseason with his wife, Rumi, and son, Leo, in Arizona...Rumi previously worked as a broadcaster for NHK TV... Pitched for Hanamaki Higashi High School in Japan where he led the team to a runner-up finish at the national high school invitational in April, 2009, and to the semifinals in the national championship in August, 2009...Became the top pick in the 2009 NPB Draft by the Saitama Seibu Lions... Is the seventh Japanese-born player to play for the Blue Jays, and the fifth pitcher to do so, joining Mike Nakamura (2004), Tomo Ohka (2007), Ryota Igarashi (2012) and Shun Yamaguchi (2020).
Over 20 starts, went 4-7 with a 5.25 ERA (48 ER/82.1 IP)....Gave up 3R/2ER on five hits over 3.1 innings (2BB, 2K) in his Blue Jays debut April 12 at NYY....Made his first start at Rogers Centre as a Blue Jay on April 24 at HOU...Settled for a no-decision, giving up 4R/2ER on three hits over 3.2 innings (5BB, 4K, HR)....Earned his first win as a Blue Jay on May 4 vs. NYY, tossing 6.0 innings of one-run ball, surrendering three hits and a walk with seven strikeouts…Marked his first quality start of the season...Induced a season-high 15 swing-and-misses....Won his second game of the season on May 16 vs. SEA, his first meeting with his former ‘mates...Began the evening with 4.0 no-hit frames before finishing with 6.0 innings of one-hit, shutout ball (3BB, 6K)...Allowed no more than one hit in a start for the third time in his career....In the month of May, went 2-0 over five starts with a 2.36 ERA (7 ER/26.2 IP) and 31 strikeouts while holding batters to a .177 average....Tossed 6.0 innings of one-run ball on June 30 vs. TB, scattering four hits and a walk with a season-high eight strikeouts on 80 pitches (50 strikes)...Punched out Taylor Walls in the fifth for his 400th career strikeout, becoming the 15th Japanese-born player to reach the milestone....Went on the injured list with a neck strain from July 6-27....Picked up his fourth win on July 28 vs. DET, throwing 5.0 innings of one-run ball in his return from the IL...Gave up two hits and a walk while striking out five batters on 67 pitches (46 strikes)....Moved to the bullpen in mid August and kept a 4.91 ERA (10 ER/18.1 IP) while going 2-0 in 12 relief appearances. Earned his first career MLB save on Sept. 30 vs. BOS, throwing 3.0 innings of shutout ball with a hit, a walk and five strikeouts.
Set personal bests with seven wins and 163 strikeouts (16th in the AL)... Averaged a career-high 9.30 SO/9... Named to the American League All-Star Team for the first time July 4...Was on the AL club but did not pitch...Became the 14th Japanese-born player to be selected to participate in the Midsummer Classic... In the first half of the season, went 6-4 with a 3.48 ERA (38 ER/98.1 IP) with 73 hits, 34 walks and 98 strikeouts in 16 starts... Recorded a career-best streak of six quality starts from April 29-May 30, a streak ended when Kikuchi was forced to leave the game June 5 at LAA after being hit with a comebacker, having tossed just 4.0 innings on 64 pitches... Ran off a career-best five-game winning streak from May 24-July 1...Over the seven-start run, was 5-0 with a 1.87 (9 ER/43.1 IP) and 40 strikeouts...Included a four-start stretch from June 12-July 1 in which he posted a 1.01 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 26.2 innings...The last Mariner with an ERA that low and that many strikeouts over a four-start span was Félix Hernández in September of 2014 (0.96 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 28.0 innings)... Had a career-high 12 strikeouts in 6.0 IP on July 23 vs. OAK...Was his 3rd double-digit strikeout game of the year and the fourth of his career.
Made nine starts in 2020, going 2-4 with a 5.17 ERA (27 ER, 47.0 IP), 47 strikeouts, 20 walks, 41 hits (3 HR) and a 2.35 SO/BB rate...Kikuchi was one of 10 players in baseball to make nine-or-more starts and allow three or less home runs in 2020…the others include Justus Sheffield-SEA (10 GS, 2 HR), Max Fried-ATL (11 GS, 2 HR), Randy Dobnak-MIN (10 GS, 3 HR), Dallas Keuchel-CWS (11 GS, 2 HR), Brad Keller-KC (9 GS, 2 HR), Corbin Burnes-MIL (9 GS, 2 HR), Spencer Turnbull-DET (11 GS, 2 HR), Zack Wheeler-PHI (11 GS, 3 HR) and Steven Brault-PIT (10 GS, 2 HR)...Allowed 41 hits this season, 15 of which for extra bases (11 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR)...his .366 slugging percentage allowed was 16th-best in the American League among starting pitchers (min. 150 BF)...Justus Sheffield had the 4th-best mark among AL starters (.304) and Marco Gonzales finished 14th (.361)...In his final start of 2020 on Sept. 25, Kikuchi fired 6.0 scoreless innings against the American League West champion Oakland Athletics, allowing just four hits and three walks with five strikeouts in an eventual 1-3 loss in Oakland…also faced Oakland on Aug. 1, where he threw 6.0 scoreless allowing three hits and one walk with a season-high nine strikeouts...In four starts against AL West opponents, Kikuchi went 1-0 with a 2.49 ERA (6 ER, 21.2 IP), 25 strikeouts, eight walks and an opponents slashline of .194/.275/.292 (14x72)…in five starts vs. NL West opponents, he went 1-4 with a 7.46 ERA (21 ER, 25.1 IP) with 22 strikeouts and 12 walks, with an opponents slashline of .270/.342/.420 (27x100)...Held opponents to a .190 batting average (15x79) at T-Mobile Park, allowing just four extra-base hits with 24 strikeouts and a .513 OPS in four starts…in contrast, opponents batted .280 (26x93) with 11 extra-base hits and an .819 OPS in five road starts...Kikuchi’s 4-seam fastball averaged 95.0 MPH over 298 throws in 2020…among left-handed pitchers with at least 250 4-seamers thrown this year, Kikuchi ranked 2nd in MLB behind only Jesús Luzardo-OAK, who averaged 95.9 MPH (282 4-seamers thrown).
Was 6-11 with a 5.46 ERA (98 ER, 161.2 IP) with 116 strikeouts and 50 walks in 32 starts with the Mariners...His 32 starts tied for 4th-most by a rookie in single-season club history (also: Matt Young, 1983); trails only Mark Langston (33, 1984), Dave Fleming (33, 1992) and Freddy Garcia (33, 1999)…his 32 starts were tied for the Major League lead among rookies in 2019 (also: Sandy Alcantara-MIA, Dakota Hudson-STL and Merrill Kelly-ARI)...Finished the season with 116 strikeouts, 6th-most in club history by a Mariners rookie…trails only Mark Langston (204, 1984), Michael Pineda (173, 2011), Freddy Garcia (170, 1999), Roenis Elías (143, 2014) and Matt Young (130, 1983)…ranked 10th in the Majors (4th in the AL) among rookies this season (most: Merrill Kelly-ARI, 158)...Recorded his first career complete game shutout on August 18 at Toronto, pitching 9.0 scoreless innings and allowing only 2 hits and 1 walk with 8 strikeouts... the shutout was the 2nd by a Mariners starter in 2019 (also: Mike Leake, July 19 vs. LAA)... became just the 13th pitcher (done 17x) in club history to throw a complete game shutout within his first 30 career appearances (last: Mike Montgomery, 6/30/15 at SD)...When tossing at least 5.0 innings, was 6-5 with a 3.84 ERA (53 ER, 124.1 IP) with 99 strikeouts and 33 walks in 21 starts…in 11 starts in which he did not complete 5.0 innings, went 0-6 with a 10.85 ERA (45 ER, 37.1 IP) with 17 strikeouts and 17 walks...In 15 starts against teams with a winning percentage of .500 or better, posted a 3.92 ERA (36 ER, 82.2 IP)…in 17 starts against teams with a losing record, posted a 7.06 ERA (62 ER, 79.0 IP)...Made his Major League debut on March 21 against Oakland at the Tokyo Dome in Japan…became the first Japanese-born player to make his Major League debut in Japan…worked into the 5th inning with a 3-1 lead but took a no decision...Earned his first Major League win on April 20 at Los Angeles-AL…worked 5.0 innings, allowing 4 runs on 10 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3...On April 26 vs. Texas, made a planned start of just 1.0 inning in an effort to help adjust from the 7-day pitching rotation in Japan to the 5-day pitching rotation in the Majors…retired each of the 3 Rangers batters he faced, striking out 2...Following his abbreviated outing on April 26 against the Rangers, worked at least 6.0 innings and allowed 3 or fewer runs in each of his next 4 starts…went 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA (6 ER, 26.2 IP) in those 4 starts, spanning May 3-19...Making his 8th career start, recorded 10 strikeouts on May 3 at Cleveland… took a no decision despite allowing just 1 run on 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 10 in 7.0 innings…became the 7th pitcher in club history to have a double-digit strikeout game within his first 8 career starts with the Mariners, joining Byron McLaughlin (1978), Erik Hanson (1988), Félix Hernández (2005), James Paxton (2013), Roenis Elías (2014) and Mike Montgomery (2015)...From May 25 - June 8, worked exactly 3.1 innings and allowed at least 5 runs in 3 straight starts…went 0-3 while allowing 18 runs (16 earned runs) over 10.0 innings for a 14.40 ERA…allowed 9 or more hits in each of those 3 outings...Retired 46 of 54 batters (6 H, 2 BB, GIDP) over 3 starts, April 26 - May 8, including 7.2 innings of 3-hit, 1-run ball on May 8 at New York-AL.
The Totals - Went 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA (56 ER, 163.2 IP) with 153 strikeouts and 45 walks in 23 starts with the Seibu Lions...Sky Full of Stars - Named to the NPB All-Star Team for the 3rd time in his career (also: 2013 and 2017)...Winning Ways - Earned double-digit wins (14) for the 3rd consecutive season, following 12 wins in 2016 and a league-best 16 wins in 2017...You Complete Me - Tossed 1 complete game.