Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi will try to find a way to cool down the red-hot bats of the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon and help the host Seattle Mariners avoid a four-game sweep by the American League Central Division leaders.
The 27-year-old Kikuchi (2-1, 3.64 ERA) hasn't faced the Twins in his career and comes in off a no-decision in his last start against Oakland, a 6-5 win by the Mariners on Monday during which he allowed three runs on five hits over six innings. That came after an impressive 10-1 victory in New York where he held the Yankees to just one run and three hits over 7 2/3 innings.
Kikuchi will have his hands full against a Minnesota team that has won five in a row, including an 18-4 victory on Saturday night that saw the Twins bash six home runs, becoming the first team in major league history with five games of five or more homers in their first 45 games of a season.
C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop both hit two homers and Byron Buxton hit a grand slam in the 19-hit eruption. Miguel Sano also homered for the Twins, who have outscored the Mariners 36-11 in the first three games while hitting 11 home runs.
"Very, very special night for our offense," first-year Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told the media Saturday. "Obviously we hit some homers again. Stating the obvious here, but I haven't seen too many nights like that. Just a very special night."
"They pounded us," Seattle manager Scott Servais countered. "What else you going to say? They hit the tar out of the ball tonight. We made a lot of mistakes. Our pitching is going through a tough spell right now. They are on everything. I'd like to say it's baseball, but we've got to make some adjustments.
"Our pitching has struggled in this series. The Twins can hit. They're swinging it really good. They've got power, and we haven't gotten them off anything. Tomorrow is another ballgame, but the last three nights have been rough on our pitching."
Baldelli was unaware of his team making major league history with its fifth five-home run game before June 1.
"Well, I didn't know that, but watching it from where we are it's not surprising," Baldelli said. "It's been impressive. We sit here -- we're the staff and working with these guys every day and watching them every day -- even from the angle we are at it's very impressive."
Minnesota, which has homered in 13 straight games, is 21-8 in its last 29 games and has won six consecutive road games. Kyle Gibson (4-1, 4.26), who is 4-2 with a 3.38 ERA in nine career starts against the Mariners and 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in four starts in Seattle, will start for the Twins.
"We're struggling," Servais said. "That's just the name of the game. We've got to step up. Kikuchi goes tomorrow. He's been very competitive. If he can give us a good outing and we can get into a ballgame and go from there and win it."
--Field Level Media