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Yankees 1, Blue Jays 6: Kikuchi stymies the Bombers once again

Yusei Kikuchi still has the Yankees’ number... somehow.

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Two dangerous offenses walked into this game but only one brought their bats to the ballpark. The Yankees couldn’t get anything going against a normally profligate Yusei Kikuchi, which is not the place you want to be when Domingo Germán’s home run problems resurface. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. left the yard while Brandon Belt inexplicably drove in four as the Yankees dropped the weekend series opener, 6-1.

Germán may have been coming off a career-high in strikeouts against the Twins, but the top of this Blue Jays lineup has been a whole different beast through the early going, and they made sure to let Germán know from the first pitch. A first pitch which George Springer yanked 112 mph for a double turned out to be a harbinger of things to come. Two batters later, Germán hung an 0-1 curveball that Guerrero deposited into his team’s bullpen for a two-run bomb.

New York answered in the second, Oswaldo Cabrera halved the deficit with an opposite-field solo shot with two outs. It’s his first home run of the year and first regular season home run batting right-handed.

New York further threatened with Kyle Higashioka reaching on a single and Isiah Kiner-Falefa on a walk, but Anthony Volpe grounded out to strand the pair. Although it was early, that was the last time that the Yankees’ offense really made noise on this night.

Germán settled nicely into the start after that loud first inning. Following a Kevin Kiermaier single in the second, the righty retired 11 in a row. Alas, that charmed run would only last so long. With velocity declining as the sixth inning unfolded, he walked Matt Chapman before surrendering another two-run bomb, this time to Belt.

This is the same Belt, by the way, who entered the day with a 32 wRC+ and 19 strikeouts in 43 plate appearances.

Germán got Danny Jansen to fly out to finish the inning and end his outing. With the two home runs surrendered, Germán’s home run per nine rate since 2018 climbed to 1.65, worse than all but four regular starting pitchers since 2018. While there were some encouraging developments — whiff rates of 35 percent or higher on the curve and changeup — you just can’t make the type of mistakes Germán made and expect not to get punished. His final line on the night: six innings, five hits, four runs, two walks, and six strikeouts on 91 pitches.

Germán’s opposite number on the other hand could scarcely be touched following Cabrera’s home run. Kikuchi allowed only one baserunner after the second inning — a Gleyber Torres walk in the third. The Yankees struggled mightily to elevate the baseball against him, with nine of the thirteen outs he recorded coming via groundball.

It continues an infuriating trend of the Yankees being unable to hit Kikuchi when everyone else can. He has produced the second-lowest fWAR, third-worst FIP, and seventh-worst ERA of any qualified starter since his MLB debut in 2019, yet since he joined the Blue Jays he’s pitched to a 3.08 ERA in 26.1 innings against the Bombers. In six innings, Kikuchi gave up the lone run on four hits and two walks against three strikeouts.

Any semblance of a chance at a Yankees comeback was dashed by Albert Abreu in the eighth. After working a one-two-three seventh, his erratic nature reemerged the following frame. Abreu served up back-to-back leadoff singles to Bo Bichette and Vladito, and while he did strike out the next two he faced, he failed to put away Belt after quickly working the count to 0-2. The at-bat eventually ended in a two-run double that came off the heel of Judge’s glove to quintuple the Blue Jays first baseman’s RBI output on the season and put the Yankees in an even deeper hole, 6-1.

Toronto threatened with even more in the ninth facing Greg Weissert. Bichette walked with two outs, after which Weissert hit Vlad in the elbow with a 93-mph first pitch sinker. Guerrero was understandably annoyed, and eyed Weissert as he walked to first. Anthony Rizzo barked at Vlad to get to first, and there was some stirring around the dugout areas but nothing further. A walk to Matt Chapman loaded the bases, but Volpe made a nice stab and half jump throw on a Dalton Varsho grounder to leave three ducks on the pond. That would be the final interesting action of the contest as the Blue Jays closed out an easy victory, 6-1.

The Yankees will look to even the series tomorrow afternoon with Gerrit Cole taking on Alek Manoah. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm ET so be sure to join us in the game thread.

Box Score