I envy Ryu Hyun-jin.
Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi, two pillars of the Toronto Blue Jays’ starting rotation, have been struck by the ninth inning. Berrios allowed two runs on four hits (two home runs) with seven strikeouts and one walk in six innings of work against the Oakland Athletics on Friday at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, Calif.
Going back to Aug. 6 against the Boston Red Sox (5⅔ innings, six hits, six strikeouts, one walk, three runs), he hadn’t won a game in five straight starts since earning his ninth win of the season. In fact, he hasn’t pitched well during this stretch. Aside from a strong outing against the Cincinnati Reds on August 19, when he pitched 5⅔ innings of one-hit ball with eight strikeouts and four walks, he has struggled.
In his last five starts, he has allowed 16 earned runs in 28 innings. In August, he went 1-3 with a 5.53 ERA in five games. It took him a month to get a quality start after his nine wins. It’s encouraging for Toronto to see him bounce back in his first September start.
Berrios is in the second season of a seven-year, $131 million extension. In 2022, his numbers ranked near the bottom of the American League among pitchers who pitched in regulation innings. His command was shaky and he was hit hard out of nowhere.안전놀이터
But this season, he’s 9-10 with a 3.68 ERA in 28 games. It’s not spectacular, but it’s not as bad as last year either. In 164 innings pitched, he has 153 strikeouts and a 1.21 WHIP. Berrios’ biggest strength is his innings pitched. Even if he doesn’t reach the 200⅓ innings he pitched in 2019 with the Minnesota Twins, he’s sure to surpass last year’s 172 innings.
Kikuchi hasn’t won more than nine or 10 games in five straight starts. In terms of frustration, it’s more frustrating than Berrios. That’s because those five games are much better. After picking up the win on August 3 against the Baltimore Orioles with six innings of six-hit ball, three walks and one strikeout, Kikuchi has allowed 11 runs in 28 1/3 innings. ERA 3.49.
Kikuchi gave up six runs (two earned) on six hits, six walks and four strikeouts in 4⅔ innings against the Colorado Rockies on March 3. He’s given up a lot of runs, but not a lot of earned runs. He is 9-5 with a 3.63 ERA in 27 games this season. He is in his second year of a three-year, $36 million contract through the 2022 season.
Kikuchi has never won more than 10 games or had a sub-3 ERA since entering the majors with the Seattle Mariners in 2019. While he has a good weapon in his arsenal – a fastball that sits in the mid-90s – command has always been an issue, but this season he’s rarely walked himself out of a game.
His WHIP of 1.26 is well below his career average of 1.39. His BABIP is slightly higher at 0.251 this year compared to 0.243 last year, but that’s not a big deal. Kikuchi is proving that if he strikes out fewer batters, he’s more likely to give up fewer runs even if he gets more hits. He has a fastball, but he utilizes a mix of moving fastballs and changeups.
Berrios/Getty Images Korea
Kikuchi/Getty Images Korea
The ninth-inning duo might be envious of Ryu, who won three games in six starts upon his return. But 10 wins should be within reach. The regular season is still about a month away. It’s 2023, and Berrios and Kikuchi have been restored to honor. Now it’s all about the finish. They have an obligation to help Toronto win the American League wild card.