Blue Jays’ Kikuchi simply can’t find plate in major setback vs. Athletics

Toronto Blue Jays' Yusei Kikuchi pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, July 5, 2022. (Jeff Chiu/AP Photo)

After a bounce-back performance last week against the Tampa Bay Rays, Yusei Kikuchi finally seemed to have something to build on heading into Tuesday’s start against the Oakland Athletics.

Unfortunately for the Toronto Blue Jays left-hander, and the team’s fans, last week’s version of Kikuchi was nowhere to be found.

The Blue Jays’ pitching woes escalated as Kikuchi was wild, walking five and hitting two A’s before Charlie Montoyo gave him the hook and inserted Trent Thornton with Toronto trailing 3-2 with one out in the third inning.

Control has been an issue all season for Kikuchi — and it was a huge problem once again on Tuesday.

Kikuchi has already walked 41 batters in 65 innings this season. He walked 64 over 157 innings with the Seattle Mariners last season.

His last time out, Kikuchi gave up one run on four hits and a walk in six innings in a win over Tampa last week.

It was a much-needed rebound after failing to get through five innings in each of his previous five starts.

Now, the Blue Jays have to figure out what’s next for Kikuchi, who signed a three-year, $36 million contract in the off-season.

The Blue Jays, who carried a four-game losing streak into Tuesday’s game, are experiencing major problems with their starting rotation and bullpen.

Kevin Gausman is unlikely to make his next start on Thursday in Seattle after not throwing his bullpen session on Tuesday. He suffered an ankle injury on a comebacker last Saturday against Tampa.

Casey Lawrence, who has pitched most of the year at triple-A, is the likely candidate to replace Gausman.

Kikuchi’s next turn in the rotation would come Sunday in Seattle against his old team.

Meanwhile, ace Alek Manoah and Ross Stripling are coming off two of their worst outings of the season, while Jose Berrios has battled inconsistency all season.

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