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Game #79 Preview: Kikuchi vs Ryu

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Mariners (42-39) vs Blue Jays (41-37)

Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

The Blue Jays will play the rubber match of their 3 game series against the Mariners this afternoon, looking to win the series after their extra inning loss last night. Today’s Canada Day game gets underway at 1:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Hyun Jin Ryu will head to the mound for the Jays, looking to move past the month of June and get back to a more dominating version of himself. On the season, Ryu is 7-4 with a 3.41 ERA, but June saw him post a 2-2 record with a 4.88 ERA. Not all runs are equally valuable, as a couple of his runs in the 7th inning against the Orioles likely don’t go to him in a closer game, but the Jays were up 12-4 even after Ryu pitched an inning he probably shouldn’t have. But even still, Ryu had a rough month in general, and the numbers bear that out.

April/May: 58.1 innings, 58 strikeouts against 8 walks and 6 home runs.
June: 31.1 innings, 14 strikeouts against 11 walks and 6 home runs.

Mariners’ Starter

Yusei Kikuchi will make his 15th start of the year, in what has so far been the breakout season that everyone believed Kikuchi was capable when he signed with the Mariners before the 2019 season. The left handed Kikuchi is 5-3 with a 3.34 ERA over 86.1 innings. He has done well so far with strikeouts (9.07 per 9 innings) and walks (3.13 per 9 innings), while also getting a lot of ground balls (a career best 52.7%). The home runs are his big culprit, as he will get hit hard on occasion, and his 1.46 per 9 inning home run rate is reflective of that.

Kikuchi has one career start against the Jays, and while I’m not usually one to focus on a pitcher’s line against an offense from 2 years ago, this one is worth mentioning. Pitching in a mid-August game at the Rogers Centre, Kikuchi threw his first and only complete game in the Majors. It was also a shutout, as Kikuchi went 9 innings, allowing just a pair of hits and a walk while striking out 8. It was far and away the best start of his career, and is one of two career games that he has even recorded an out in the 8th inning.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

I anticipate that Santiago Espinal will be playing 3B again today. Of his last 7 starts in the field, 4 have come in Ryu’s last 4 starts. Since there is a lefty on the mound, I would guess that Cavan Biggio will just be on the bench to get Espinal into the game.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was DH yesterday, will likely be back out on the field. He has been scuffling a little bit at the plate recently, getting the strikeout hat trick in last night’s game. He struck out in 23.5% of his plate appearances in June, after a 15.7% rate in April and an even better 13.2% rate in May. But even with the increase in strikeouts, he had his best offensive month, hitting .371/.465/.753 (222 wRC+). Yesterday was likely just an aberration, a result of pitchers executing a solid game plan (and their pitches) quite well against him.

With another lefty on the mound today, the Jays will probably still go with Reese McGuire behind the plate. Riley Adams got the start yesterday, but I can’t see them going with him again today. Both Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk are on rehab assignments in AAA right now, but I doubt either of them will be there for today’s game. Jansen has played just 1 rehab game, and probably needs a few more. Kirk is eligible to be reinstated off the 60 day IL today, but has been out since May 2 with a strained hip flexor. He played in just his second rehab game yesterday, catching all 9 innings, and going 2-3 with a double and a walk.

Mariners’ Lineup

Donnie Walton was optioned before the game yesterday, giving the Mariners just 2 bench players. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another move today to get that number back up to 3 bench players.

With the Jays trotting out their 3rd straight lefty to start against the lefty heavy Mariners’ lineup, and with today being a day game after a night game, I would imagine we’ll see different guys getting the day off. Shed Long Jr. and Jake Fraley sat yesterday after playing the opener, so they’ll probably be back in the lineup. Regardless of how it ultimately ends up lining up, Ryu will probably have 5 lefties in the lineup against him.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Ozzie Albies went 5-6 with a pair of home runs, driving in 7 runs to pick up the Monster Bat award. It was a monster bat kinda day for their entire lineup, as the Braves beat the Mets 20-2.

Harold Castro had a big game in game 1 of the double header yesterday. He had went 3-3 with a walk, and 3 of those plate appearances resulted in an RBI - 2 of them were game tying, and the third was a go ahead single. All of that comes out to a WPA King total of .484 WPA. His Tigers won that game 9-4, and came back in the evening to beat Cleveland 7-1 and sweep the double header.

Chris Bassitt threw 7 shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits and a walk while striking out 7 and picking up the Pitcher of the Day award. He also picked up the win, as his Athletics held on for the 3-1 win over the Rangers.

Find the Link

Find the link between Kikuchi and the MLB home run leader.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant