If you didn’t watch tonight’s slobber-knocking at the hands of the Houston Astros, you didn’t miss much except for Yusei Kikuchi missing a whole lot of spots. The lone Seattle Mariners All-Star has been tattooed into orbit since the break, giving up 24 runs in 34 innings following the Midseason Classic. Tonight he yielded seven of those on three homers in just 2.2 innings, looking hapless and a far cry from the near-ace he’d shown at times throughout his career. Dispiriting as a single loss is on the fringes of a playoff race, particularly one of the 12-3 blowout variety like tonights walloping, the regression of Kikuchi stings worst of all. The implications are significant, as the club holds the keys to a four-year, $66 million option that is at this point likely to go unselected, leading to a one-year, $13 million option that the enigmatic lefty might be inclined to take or turn down given his mercurial performances. Thanks to the Astros and nights like this, a tough decision awaits the Seattle Mariners this October.
The rest of the game was not as abysmal as its opening stages, when it seemed Lance McCullers Jr. was in form to stifle Seattle completely. Instead, Kyle Seager and Abraham Toro convened to ensure merely a quality start for McCullers in lieu of something more memorable. The bullpen struggled similarly against the onslaught of Houston’s order, with Wyatt Mills, Erik Swanson, and Keynan Middleton all working in and only partially out of trouble, a night after a grisly ‘pen meltdown already had the club shorthanded. Seattle and Houston send enigmatic righties to the mound tomorrow, with Jake Odorizzi on the bump for the Spacemen, in search of past form, and Logan Gilbert advancing his rookie campaign, hopefully corralling his secondary pitches with greater acuity lest he suffer a similar fate as Kikuchi did tonight.