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Yusei’s Revenge

Yusei Kikuchi

Yusei Kikuchi

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

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Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker calls Yusei Kikuchi’s slider-cutter hybrid a “bitter.” On Monday, Kikuchi made his former team bitter about no longer having him.

Kikuchi dominated the Mariners on Monday at Rogers Centre in Toronto, holding them to just one hit and three walks over six shutout innings. He struck out six batters along the way.

Over the previous two seasons and at the beginning of this year, Kikuchi was throwing both a slider and a cutter. More recently, though, aided by Walker’s advice, he’s combined the two pitches into one offering. It’s like a cutter but with a bigger break, hence the nickname “bitter.”

In three starts so far this month, Kikuchi holds a 1.56 ERA and 20/7 K/BB ratio covering 17 1/3 innings. He’s surrendered just six hits over that stretch.

We’ve seen stretches of dominance from Kikuchi before, of course. He went on an 11-start run last year which saw him post a 2.33 ERA as he earned a spot on his first All-Star team. Unfortunately, he fell apart after that with a 6.22 ERA in his final 14 outings.

Kikuchi hasn’t been perfect even during this nice recent stretch, as he’s issued seven free passes over 17 1/3 frames. He’s also always had a problem with limiting hard contact and home runs. Those things can be dangerous, especially when they’re combined.

The 30-year-old left-hander has had a brutal schedule so far this season, but he’ll have an excellent chance to keep it rolling this weekend when he takes on an anemic Reds offense.

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Freddy Peralta vs. ATL – 7 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 10 K

The Brewers didn’t give Peralta much to work with in scoring just one run on Monday, but as it turns out that’s all he and the bullpen needed. The right-hander set new season highs in innings, strikeouts and pitches (102) as he cruised to his third straight victory. He retired the final 11 batters he faced. After putting up an 11.57 ERA in his first two outings of the season, Peralta has posted a 1.57 ERA and 38/6 K/BB ratio over 28 2/3 frames covering his last five starts.

Johnny Cueto vs. KC – 6 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 7 K

Making his season debut for the White Sox after agreeing to a minor league deal just before Opening Day, Cueto was excellent on Monday in Kansas City, holding the Royals off the scoreboard with an efficient 81 pitches over six shutout frames. It’s the first time since June of 2021 that he’s had a scoreless outing of at least six innings. Cueto is expected to remain in the White Sox’ rotation indefinitely, especially if he can put together more outings like this one.

Wade Miley vs. PIT – 7 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 0 BB, 6 K

Miley’s season debut last week versus the Padres left something to be desired, but it’s nothing a matchup against the Pirates can’t cure. The veteran left-hander retired the first 14 batters of the game before Michael Chavis broke things up with a clean single. It would be the only hit Miley would give up. Miley had been sidelined for the first five weeks of the season with left elbow inflammation.

Hitters with an EDGE

Willson Contreras vs. PIT – 2-for-5, HR, 4 RBI

Contreras had a first inning to remember on Monday against the Pirates. After leading off the game with a double, his turn came back around and he capped off the Cubs’ eight-run frame with a grand slam. It was also the 100th home run of Contreras’ career. The veteran backstop – who was in the designated hitter spot for this one – now is sitting on a .906 with five dingers on the season.

Curt Casali vs. COL – 3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI

Casali delivered his first multi-homer game since 2015 as the Giants outlasted the Rockies 7-6 on Monday. They weren’t cheapies, either, with his solo shot in the third inning traveling 438 feet and his two-run blast in the fifth tracked at 416 feet. Casali also singled and scored an additional run.

Anthony Santander vs. NYY – 2-for-4, 2 HR

Santander popped two solo home runs – one from the left side of the plate and one from the right side – for the Orioles’ only two runs Monday. Amazingly, Santander has six multi-homer games on his resume and the Orioles have lost in every one of them. He’s the only player in major league history who can make such a dubious claim.

Priority Pickup

Brendan Rodgers, 2B/SS, Rockies – Available in 51 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues

Rodgers was sent to the waiver wire in many leagues following an absolutely dreadful April which saw him go 4-for-51 with just one extra-base hit – a double – and one RBI. However, since the calendar flipped to May Rodgers has snapped out of his funk, going 18-for-50 (.360) with two long balls, five doubles and 14 RBI in 12 contests. After being stuck in the No. 8 spot for the Rockies on May 1, Rodgers has found himself batting fifth each of the last three games. The 25-year-old is still widely available in shallower leagues and the Rockies are at Coors Field all week.

Closing Time

With Jordan Romano (illness) unavailable, Adam Cimber retired both batters he faced to close out the Blue Jays’ 6-1 win over the Mariners on Monday to notch a save. It’s the second save of the season for Cimber, who could be next in line for saves when Romano is away. Thankfully, it sounds like the Toronto closer will be fine.

Gregory Soto pitched around a hit to record a scoreless inning and a save on Monday as the Tigers held off the Rays 3-2. The lefty’s closer job had seemed to be on shaky ground following a rough stretch, although manager A.J. Hinch did give him a fairly tepid endorsement. Michael Fulmer pitched before Soto, giving up a run but picking up a win.

Tyler Duffey picked up his first save of the season with a clean inning Monday in Oakland. Duffey has been much better this month after a couple rough appearances in April, but he likely only received the save opportunity here because Emilio Pagan had pitched each of the previous three days.

Hansel Robles pitched around a hit to hold down a 6-3 victory for the Red Sox over the Astros on Monday. Robles had been scored upon in four of his previous five appearances but was manager Alex Cora’s choice to close this one out. Jake Diekman, John Schreiber, Matt Barnes and Matt Strahm preceded Robles in the game.

Craig Kimbrel was handed a three-run lead in the ninth inning Monday and needed every run after he served up a two-run homer to David Peralta. It’s the first time since his first appearance of the season that he’s been scored upon and he’s now a perfect 6-for-6 in save chances this season.

Joe Barlow preserved a three-run lead to nail down the Rangers’ win over the Angels on Monday. It was the seventh save of the season for Barlow, who now boasts a 1.35 ERA. Barlow is the only Ranger to collect a save over the last three weeks.

Tuesday’s Matchup of the Day

Jose Urquidy (HOU) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (BOS)

The batters had better get ready to swing in this one, as Urquidy and Eovaldi are two of the stingiest in the game when it comes to walking batters. Between the two of them they’ve issued just 11 free passes in 68 2/3 innings, and on only one occasion in a combined 13 starts did they walk more than one batter (Eovaldi walked three on May 6 against the White Sox). Eovaldi somehow hasn’t won a game since April 13 even though since then he’s posted a 2.70 ERA over five outings.

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American League Quick Hits: Brandon Lowe has landed on the IL with a lower back injury. … Carlos Correa (finger) could be activated during the Twins’ current series versus the Athletics. … The White Sox hope Lucas Giolito (COVID-19) can start Tuesday or Wednesday. … Jake Odorizzi was taken away on a stretcher after suffering a left leg injury Monday. … Chas McCormick homered, doubled and walked Monday against the Red Sox. … Gary Sánchez went 2-for-4 with a homer and a double on Monday in the Twins’ win over the Athletics. … Bo Bichette went 3-for-5 with a homer and two RBI against the Mariners. … Yasmani Grandal cranked a two-run homer as part of a 2-for-5 effort versus the Royals. … Alex Faedo pitched 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Rays on Monday. … Brett Phillips had a 3-for-3 day with a homer and a double Monday. … Dylan Bundy (COVID-19) will rejoin the Twins’ rotation on Tuesday in Oakland. … Jeremy Peña (knee) remained out of the Astros’ lineup Monday but was available off the bench. … Vertigo has sent Austin Meadows to the IL.

National League Quick Hits: Ronald Acuña Jr. (groin) ran the bases before Monday’s game and hopes to return to action Tuesday. … Brewers manager Craig Counsell indicated Monday that Willy Adames (ankle) could require a stint on the IL. … Sandy Alcantara limited the Nationals to just one run over eight innings of one-run ball on Monday. … Chris Taylor went 2-for-4 with a homer, two runs and two RBI on Monday versus the Diamondbacks. … Tony Gonsolin fanned seven while limiting the D-backs to two runs in six innings Monday. … Antonio Senzatela is headed to the IL after tweaking his back Monday. … Tyler Matzek (shoulder) is headed to the IL and will undergo an MRI. … Tommy La Stella (Achilles) was retired in his only plate appearance in his return to action Monday. … Andrew Heaney (shoulder) will throw a bullpen session Tuesday. … Nelson Cruz (illness) was scratched Monday.