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Kikuchi, Guerrero help Jays edge Yankees 5-4

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays will not tire of seeing their sleepy left-hander Yusei Kikuchi perform as he did against the New York Yankees on Tuesday.

Kikuchi (1-1), who claimed last fall after a late-season win that he sleeps 13 to 14 hours the night before a start, spearheaded the Blue Jays to a 5-4 victory against the Yankees (12-6).

He struck out nine and allowed only a run on four hits and a walk in a masterful 94-pitch outing as Toronto (10-8) won its season-high fourth in a row, while the Yankees dropped their third straight.

“It’s my sixth year, and this is the most confident I’ve been with all my pitches,” Kikuchi said. “I don’t have to think about the little things, like my mechanics. I’m just going out there and attacking the hitter.”

That was evident in the first inning as Kikuchi struck out the first three batters he faced: Anthony Volpe, Juan Soto and Aaron Judge.

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“He’s got a great mix, and his curveball was such a big pitch for him tonight,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “It was electric at times.

“He’s got weapons, and he’s confident with every pitch.”

The only concern for Kikuchi was in the sixth inning he began to cramp on his left side. Schneider and trainer Jose Minisral made two visits that inning to check on their Japanese pitcher, but on each occasion he claimed he was fine.

Kikuchi departed with the Blue Jays in front 3-1 before an appreciative 31,175 at Rogers Centre.

With the game deadlocked at 1-1, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. slammed a two-out single through the infield and into centre field to score Ernie Clement and Daulton Varsho. Guerrero went 2-for-3 with two walks.

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“We executed our plan at the plate, and that’s been the key in the last four games,” said Guerrero, adding that he has benefited from roving instructor Edwin Encarnacion’s presence around the team the past few days.

The offensive plan was to make Yankees starter Carlos Rodon (1-1) throw plenty of pitches early.

He departed after four innings, having tossed 101 pitches with five hits, three runs, four walks and five strikeouts.

Bo Bichette worked Rodon for a 12-pitch walk in the first inning, and Guerrero made the Yankees’ starter throw eight more in a third-inning walk.

The Blue Jays scored two more in the sixth inning on an error from New York second baseman Gleyber Torres and an RBI single from Bichette.

The Yankees made it close with a two-run seventh inning off reliever Trevor Richards, which included a run-scoring double from Alex Verdugo and a sacrifice fly from Oswaldo Cabrera.

Toronto reliever Yimi Garcia enjoyed a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Canadian stopper Jordan Romano had a rocky ninth but earned his first save of the year. He hit Torres and gave up a one-out double to Verdugo. Romano then coaxed two infield outs with the first grounder scoring Torres.

The Yankees snatched a 1-0 lead in the second inning on catcher Jose Trevino’s single to left field, scoring Giancarlo Stanton from second base. Davis Schneider’s throw was in time and on target, but catcher Danny Jansen mishandled the ball. Jansen was making his first start in 2024 after suffering a wrist injury in spring training.

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Schneider made another standout defensive play in the sixth inning with a diving catch along the left-field line.

The Blue Jays pulled even on a Justin Turner sacrifice fly that scored Daulton Varsho after his leadoff double in the third inning.

BULLPEN BOLSTERED

Before the game, the Blue Jays reinstated relievers Romano (right elbow inflammation) and Erik Swanson (right forearm inflammation) from the 15-day injured list.

Nate Pearson was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo, and Mitch White was designated for assignment to make room for the return of the veteran right-handed pitchers.

ON DECK

Toronto concludes its nine-game homestand and three-game set against the Yankees with a Wednesday matinee.

Kevin Gausman (0-2, 11.57) was scheduled to start against former Blue Jay Marcus Stroman (1-1, 2.12).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2024.

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