The Mariners lost 8-0 to the Royals today in a sleepy, sloppy, non-televised Spring Training game. The most exciting part of this game was getting to see the Mariners’ most highly-touted off-season acquisition, Yusei Kukuchi. Except we didn’t get to, you know, see him, so here’s some footage:
Kikuchi’s first inning was a dynamite 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts and a lineout off the bat of Whit Merrifield. His second inning was equally crisp, with two groundouts and a strikeout. The third inning, however, was not so great. It started with a single on a ball J.P. Crawford should, by all accounts, have had a play on. Then, potentially rattled or maybe just still struggling to grip the American ball, Kikuchi hit Brandon Phillips in the helmet. Phillips was fine, but two batters later, Billy Hamilton snuck a double down the left-field line, giving Kikuchi the first run against him for the spring, and then an RBI groundout from Merrifield gave him the second.
After seeing Kikuchi flood the strikezone early and watching called strikes, Royals hitters have swung early and often in this inning. Last four hitters all swung at the first pitch from Kikuchi— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) March 2, 2019
Still, Kikuchi drew praise from FanGraphs prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen:
His day is done after 3. Was 91-93 in the third, cutter not biting as hard. Looked good, overall. Several backdoor cutters and curveballs located where he wanted. Stuff is good, can pitch.— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) March 2, 2019
BRB, going to start working on weaving “CAN PITCH” into a web.
- The Mariners had opportunities to score in this one; they just couldn’t capitalize. Their best scoring chance was the fifth, when Drew Storen hit two batters and walked one and overall looked terrible, but Shed Long grounded into a double play to end the inning.
- They also could have limited the damage against them with clean fielding, but that, too, would prove too taxing.
- Daniel Vogelbach got the better end of the Healybach chimera today. Vogey walked twice and singled twice in his four at-bats, while Ryon wiped out Vogey’s walk with a GIDP, his second of the young spring, and ended the inning after Vogey’s single with a hard-hit lineout. J.P. Crawford, who had singled before Vogey’s third hit, got thrown out trying to take third. Why won’t anyone let Vogey be great?!
- Speaking of overly aggressive baserunning, the Mariners had a chance to score a single run in the ninth when Braden Bishop walked and Jordan Cowan doubled. Bishop, who has been instructed to be more aggressive on the basepaths, ran through Chris Prieto’s stop sign and got thrown out at the plate. Maybe less aggressiveness, though.
- Kyle Lewis also had a strong day at the plate. His first hit goes down as a flyout but it was solidly hit and caught right at the warning track, and he walked in his second AB.
- Zac Rosscup had another strong outing. One run scored against him because of an erroneous throw by Dylan Moore and an eventual RBI groundout, but he struck out the next two batters and now has three strikeouts in two innings this spring.
- Erik Swanson had a disasterpiece of an inning—or 2⁄3 of an inning, since he hit his pitch count before he was able to record the third out. He had trouble commanding his pitches, walking two. He also wasn’t helped out by a throwing error from Jordan Cowan to allow the runner to take second to lead off the inning and a passed ball by catcher Joe DeCarlo (there was also a stolen base allowed by the battery).
- Swanson was replaced by Aaron Northcraft, who didn’t pitch in affiliated ball last year. He was greeted by a popup that should have gotten him out of the inning but instead fell in the Bermuda Triangle of right field, allowing two runs to score and pushing the game into laugher territory.
- Chasen Bradford was also unable to escape the pitcher curse today, as left fielder Dom Thompson-Williams had a ball glance off his glove and a fielding error from normally surehanded Tim Lopes allowed a run to score.
- Kristopher Negron turned a single into a double through the power of Hustle. In the eighth inning of an 8-0 game in Spring Training, moves like that might be part of the reason Negrón has avoided the Sword of DFA-ocles this season.
- A staggering six of Kansas City’s eight runs were unearned, stretching the definition of a Spring Training game to its absolute limit.
These kinds of things will happen in spring, but that doesn’t make today’s game any more fun than a root canal. The Mariners will try to recover their dignity tomorrow at 12:10 against the Diamondbacks, and this one will be on TV, so plan accordingly.