It took a brilliant outing from Yusei Kikuchi, perhaps his best since 2019, and one swing of the bat from Taylor Trammell to provide the minimal amount offense required for the Seattle Mariners to pick up a 1-0 win over the Houston Astros to avoid a four-game sweep and pick up a rare win at Minute Maid Park.
It was just the second time in the last 21 games in Houston where Seattle has won.
Kikuchi carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. After striking out Alex Bregman, he had a prolonged at-bat with Carlos Correa where he fell behind 3-1. After Correa fouled off a pair of pitches and with the count at 3-2, Kikuchi misplaced a cut fastball – leaving it on the outside part of the plate instead of driving it to the inside corner. Correa pounced on the mistake, sending a line drive to right-center for a double.
But instead of falling apart, Kikuchi maintained the 1-0 lead by making a sliding stop on a chopper in front of the mound and firing perfectly first to get Yuli Gurriel for the second out. He ended the inning and his outing by getting Aledmys Diaz to ground out to shortstop.
He finished with seven shutout innings pitched on 95 pitches with 61 strikes, including 17 swings and misses. He allowed the one hit while issuing two walks – both of which could’ve been strikeouts if not for badly missed calls on four pitches – and seven strikeouts.
It was easily his best outing of the 2021 season and of the shortened 2020 season where he failed to pitch into the seventh inning. The last time he was this good came on Aug. 18, 2019, when he tossed a complete-game shutout vs. the Blue Jays.
Taking a no-hitter past the fifth inning is far from a common occurrence, even for a pitcher facing the current Mariners’ lineup, the possibility grew from “maybe” to “you have my attention” with a dominant sixth inning from Kikuchi. He struck out Myles Straw, Jason Castro and Seattle nemesis Jose Altuve in dominant fashion.
The Mariners bullpen secured the shutout win. Anthony Misiewicz pitched a scoreless eighth while Kendall Graveman picked up his third save with a little help from Trammell. With two outs and the tying run on first base, Trammell, who was playing deep to avoid an extra-base hit, made a tough sliding catch on a soft pop fly to center to end the game.