Detroit’s Casey Mize and Seattle’s Yusei Kikuchi encountered more than a few bumps in their first couple of seasons in the major leagues.
But there are recent signs that turbulence could be behind both pitchers.
The right-handed Mize and left-handed Kikuchi have each made three consecutive quality starts as they head into Monday night’s matchup in the opener of a three-game series at T-Mobile Park.
Mize (2-3, 4.19 ERA) was the first overall pick in the 2018 draft out of Auburn University but went 0-3 with a 6.99 ERA in seven starts as a rookie last season.
Mize is coming off a 4-2 victory against Kansas City last Wednesday in which he allowed two runs on three hits in six innings.
“I’m very confident in him going out every five or six days and having an idea on what he needs to do to be successful,” said Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, whose team lost two of three games to the visiting Chicago Cubs over the weekend after a four-game winning streak.
Mize said he won despite struggling with his split-fingered fastball.
“I didn’t have feel for a ton, especially my splitter. It was non-existent,” Mize said. “But I was able to lean on the four-seamer a little bit more. I got some swings and misses on it, and I was able to locate that a little bit better.”
That compromise is what impressed Hinch most.
“He took a step back and competed with less than his best stuff,” Hinch said. “As I told him after his outing, ‘You can win with less than your best stuff when you stay in the fight and keep pitching.’ He won those battles, and that was the key to the night. He could’ve melted down and created more chaos and (then) I have to go get him. Instead, he came through with some pretty gutsy pitching when he needed to.”
Kikuchi, signed by the Mariners as a prized international free agent on Jan. 1, 2019, was 8-15 with a 5.39 through his first two seasons.
Kikuchi allowed one hit over seven innings in a 1-0 victory against Houston on April 29, pitched well when the Mariners were no-hit by Baltimore’s John Means on May 5 and struck out a career-high 11 and left with a lead in a 6-4 loss to the defending World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers last Tuesday.
“He continues to get better and better and build as the season goes along,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Against a really good (Dodgers) lineup, he was really aggressive with really good stuff.”
Kikuchi is 0-0 with a 6.30 ERA in two career starts against Detroit while Mize will be making his first appearance against Seattle.
The Mariners have won three straight games following a five-game skid. They beat Shane Bieber, the American League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, 3-2 on Sunday as Mitch Haniger had two doubles and scored twice against the Indians.
Haniger shares the major-league lead of 12 home runs with Ronald Acuna (Atlanta Braves), the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge and the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani.
–Field Level Media