Angels chase Yusei Kikuchi to win 3rd straight


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SEATTLE — Shohei Ohtani was denied a chance to face his fellow countryman Yusei Kikuchi for the first time in the Majors because of match-up reasons, but the Angels’ offense stayed hot in a 9-3 win over the Mariners in a four-game series opener on Thursday night at T-Mobile Park.

SEATTLE — Shohei Ohtani was denied a chance to face his fellow countryman Yusei Kikuchi for the first time in the Majors because of match-up reasons, but the Angels’ offense stayed hot in a 9-3 win over the Mariners in a four-game series opener on Thursday night at T-Mobile Park. It helped the streaky Angels to their fifth win over their last six games.

Ohtani attended the same high school as Kikuchi in Japan, but he was held out of action, much to chagrin of the 70 Japanese media members in attendance. But even without Ohtani, the Angels roughed up Kikuchi, as the lefty gave up six runs while tying a season-high with 10 hits allowed over 3 1/3 innings.

Box score

“Pretty much everyone contributed up and down the lineup,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “[Kikuchi] looked similar to the last time. His velocity might have been down a little bit. I just think it was our night. It wasn’t really his night.”

The Angels scored early and often. They plated at least one run in each of the first five frames, and Jonathan Lucroy — serving as the DH instead of Ohtani — was the only starter that went hitless. It was clear early that Kikuchi was having trouble with his command, as he walked the first two batters he faced before Albert Pujols ripped an RBI single to left. With an exit velocity of 112.3 mph it was the seventh-hardest hit ball by Pujols since Statcast came online in 2015.

It was more of the same in the second with Kole Calhoun connecting on his 11th homer of the year and Mike Trout plating a run with a bloop single to right.

“It was fun to be a part of,” Trout said. “When you’ve got all the guys contributing, it’s big for us. Lot of big hits by guys who weren’t with us before. Seems like every time I was up there were guys on base.”

In the third, César Puello connected on his second homer in as many days after having his contract selected from Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday.

Trout put an end to Kikuchi’s night in the fourth, when he smacked a two-run double down the left field line on a 3-2 slider to give the Angels a six-run lead.

“The 3-2 slider, one of those pitches where I was looking fastball, I told myself to be short and hit a double,” Trout said. “Second time seeing him, he had good stuff. Seeing him a second time, I saw him better.”

Rookie Luis Rengifo made it an eight-run lead with a two-run double in the fifth after an error from Tim Beckham on a potential double-play ball loaded the bases. Calhoun added an RBI single in the ninth to cap the scoring.

Offense backs Peña, gives bullpen a rest

The offense was enough for right-hander Felix Peña, who pitched behind an opener for a sixth straight outing. After Luis Garcia threw a scoreless first, Pena went 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on three hits and three walks with a season-high-tying eight strikeouts. Pena has a 3.13 ERA in six outings with an opener compared to a 4.15 ERA in four starts.

“Peña did unbelievable,” Trout said. “His last five or six games have been great. Our bullpen has been great all year, so it’s good to give them a rest.”

As Trout noted, it was a rare easy win for the Angels, who have seemingly played in close games all season and have relied heavily on their relievers as a result. Right-hander Jake Jewell threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Pena, which will give the Angels a fully-rested bullpen, outside of Jewell, heading into Friday’s game.

“We had been joking that it seems like every day we play a different version of the same game,” Ausmus said. “Today was not one of those games. It came at exactly the right time because we had a lot of people who could use rest in the bullpen.”

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.



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