Baseball: Shohei Ohtani homers off Yusei Kikuchi in 1st major battle – Kyodo News Plus

Shohei Ohtani singled and homered off Japanese compatriot Yusei Kikuchi in their first major league matchup Saturday, a 12-3 win for Ohtani’s Los Angeles Angels over Kikuchi’s Seattle Mariners.

Ohtani went 3-for-5 at Angel Stadium, scored three runs and drove in two as he and his teammates continued to torment the first-year Mariners lefty. The two-way star undeniably fared better in the much-anticipated big-league meeting with his fellow high school alumnus.

Kikuchi (3-4) allowed seven runs, six earned, on nine hits in 3-1/3 innings and fell to 1-2 against the Angels this season. After giving up three runs in the first, he doomed himself to defeat with a procession of poor pitches in the fourth.

Ohtani sparked the Angels’ three-run first with a two-out infield single, making it to third on a double from Albert Pujols. Kikuchi could have ended the inning there with a strikeout, but after a 0-2 pitch at the bottom of the zone was called a ball, Kevan Smith singled in both runners with a little fly that barely got over the infield.

An error by Mariners shortstop Dylan Moore prolonged the inning again and Smith scored on Cesar Puello’s single past first as the Angels jumped out in front.

In the fourth inning with the Mariners trailing 3-2, Kikuchi let the game get away in a hurry when leadoff man Tommy La Stella and Mike Trout each hit flat straight fastballs for home runs. Kikuchi then threw a poor slider in the heart of the strike zone that Ohtani crushed, driving it out to left center.

“I didn’t know whether it was going to clear the wall or not,” Ohtani said of his sixth home run of the season. “My timing got better after my first at-bat.”

“I was looking forward to this since I wasn’t able to face him last time (on May 30), but we’ll have more battles going forward, and I want to be thoroughly prepared for those.”

Kikuchi was yanked with one out after walking his second batter of the inning. He exited with one strikeout, three walks and a hit batter.

“I’ve never experienced frustration like this,” Kikuchi said. “I want to use this bitter experience and failure to get better.”

“This is a disappointing result (against Ohtani), but playing in the same league we’ll have more and more match-ups going forward.”

Ohtani grounded out twice and hit his first double of the season in the fifth — on a grounder through the infield that drove in a run.

The 24-year-old Ohtani and the 27-year-old Kikuchi both graduated from Iwate Prefecture’s Hanamaki Higashi High School in northeastern Japan.

In five career at-bats against Kikuchi in Japan, Ohtani struck out three times, doubled and singled. The first two strikeouts came in 2013 in Ohtani’s second pro game.

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