Yusei Kikuchi will represent the Seattle Mariners as a reserve at the 2021 All-Star game in Colorado. The only Mariner to be selected for the Midsummer Classic, Kikuchi will showcase why he has emerged as the ace of Seattle’s rotation in the first half. Kikuchi (30), is in his third year in the major leagues after pitching for the Saitama Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Pacific League in Japan for eight seasons. Kikuchi’s elite pitch repertoire has been an exciting sight for Seattle Mariners fans this season, and his upcoming All-Star Game appearance will be sure to make Mariners fans very proud of their best pitcher.
How He Got There
After signing a four-year contract with the Mariners before the 2019 season, Yusei Kikuchi struggled immensely in his transition to Major League Baseball. He posted a 5.46 ERA in 32 starts while going 6-11 on the season. In the shortened 2020 season, there was a glimpse of the confidence that the Mariners front office had when he signed. He posted a much improved 5.17 ERA, while also lowering his home runs given up and raising his strikeout percentage. Although Kikuchi is coming off one of his worst starts of the season against the Yankees on July 7th, he has been stellar for the Mariners otherwise.
Heading into the All-Star Game on July 13th, the lefty has a 3.48 ERA through 98 1/3 innings pitched. Kikuchi has also shown an impressive ability to pitch deep into games consistently. His 98 1/3 innings pitched this season leads the team. Following his increase in strikeouts in 2020, Kikuchi has been on a surge this season–striking out 98 batters. He also leads the Mariners pitching staff in this category. Knowing Kikuchi’s driven character and excellent work ethic, he will work to become an even better pitcher in his future starts. Kikuchi’s focus on his mechanics, and settling into the play of Major League Baseball, has paid-off in a big way. Kikuchi, in a short amount of time, has elevated himself to be the Mariner’s best pitcher so far this season. He is one of the top left-handed pitchers in the game in the 2021 season so far.
All-Star in Japan
Kikuchi is not unfamiliar with being recognized as one of the best. He was also a three-time All-Star, back in Japan, in 2013, 2017, and 2018. The honor in 2017 included him ending the season being the ERA leader, as well as the wins leader. Although he has experienced being an All-Star before, it will be a different experience in the major leagues. And it is one that he is very much looking forward to.
In front of a full clubhouse, Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais shared the news of his selection. Yusei Kikuchi was emotional, happy, and grateful for the opportunity. He spoke in front of the team, with the help of his interpreter, saying “… I just feel really thankful for my teammates, coaches, just everyone being there for me, and my family just always supporting me through the obstacles I have had to overcome.” He took a moment to appreciate himself too. He noted that he has endured countless struggles since coming to Major League Baseball. Kikuchi recognizes he is finally playing at the high level of baseball that he wants to be.
It has been three seasons of ups and downs for Kikuchi, but he has finally hit his stride. This has put the entire league on notice, earning him a very well-deserved selection for the 2021 All-Star game. Kikuchi now finds himself amongst the stars of the game and is overcome by the honor. Seattle, your All-Star, Yusei Kikuchi.
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