Yusei Kikuchi heading to Denver as Mariners’ first SP All-Star since 2015

Jul 4, 2021, 2:35 PM | Updated: 2:57 pm
Mariners Yusei Kikuchi...
Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi has been Seattle's top starter in 2021. (Getty)

For the first time in six years, the Seattle Mariners will be represented by a starting pitcher at the MLB All-Star Game.

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Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi has been selected a member of the 2021 American League All-Star team, as announced by MLB on Sunday.

Kikuchi, 30, is 6-3 with a 3.18 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 93 strikeouts to 31 walks over 15 starts (93 1/3 innings). Entering Sunday, he ranked among the AL pitching leaders in quality starts (tied third), WHIP (fifth), ERA (eighth) and WAR (12th). His 11 quality starts is also tied for the most among MLB left-handers along with the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Blue Jays’ Robbie Ray.

Over his last four starts, Kikuchi has allowed just three earned runs, and no more than one run in any of those outings. He also made it through seven innings in three of those four starts.

In his third MLB season, all with the Mariners, Kikuchi has found the success Seattle hoped he would have when he made the jump from his native Japan to join the M’s prior to the 2019 season. And because of it, he becomes the first Seattle starting pitcher to garner an invitation to the All-Star Game since Félix Hernández in 2015.

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Kikuchi was a three-time All-Star during his career in Nippon Pro Baseball in Japan, earning the honor while a member of the Saitama Seibu Lions in 2013, 2017 and 2018.

Though the surprising Mariners came into Sunday’s series finale against Texas with a 44-40 record and have been inching their way into the playoff race, Kikuchi was the lone Mariners player named to the initial AL squad on Sunday. That being said, they have a few other players who could receive consideration as replacements for injured players or pitchers who won’t be available for the game.

The top candidates from Seattle to be late additions are 2020 Gold Glove shortstop J.P. Crawford, who entered Sunday with a .289/.349/.408 slash line and 3.1 WAR (ninth in AL, 13th in MLB), and 2018 All-Star right fielder Mitch Haniger, who owned a .255/.305/.484 slash and 18 home runs (tied 11th in AL).

The All-Star Game is set for July 13 in Denver at Coors Field, the home of the Colorado Rockies. The All-Star festivities this year will include the annual Futures Game, which will feature three Mariners prospects, on July 11, the Home Run Derby on July 12, and the three-day MLB Draft, which will start with the first round on July 11.

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