PITTSBURGH — There was some good, some bad and some in between for Yusei Kikuchi on Thursday.
Which more or less sums up his first season pitching in the major leagues, doesn’t it?
The 28-year-old left-hander from Japan allowed four earned runs on eight hits in four innings as the Mariners beat the Pirates, 6-5, in 11 innings to complete a three-game interleague sweep at PNC Park.
Shed Long went 3 for 4 with a walk. Austin Nola drove in Long for the winning run in the 11th on a ground ball in which Omar Narvaez smartly got himself into a pickle between first and second, allowing time for Long to score from third before Narvaez was tagged out on a double play.
Rookie Erik Swanson recorded his first career save, working around a walk to strike out the side in the bottom of the 11th.
All four runs Kikuchi allowed, and five of the eight hits (including four doubles) he surrendered, came in the second inning.
He walked one and struck out one. He will carry a 5.55 earned-run average into his final scheduled start of the season next week back in Seattle.
Before Thursday’s game, manager Scott Servais deemed Kikuchi’s transition to the major leagues a success, but he was also quick to note some of the work still ahead for the pitcher.
“I said with Yusei from the beginning that we weren’t going to get caught up with the results and the stat line,” Servais said. “It was more: What can he learn? How quickly can he learn it? How quickly can he make adjustments? And he’s done OK.”
Kikuchi has made 31 starts for the Mariners. That’s good.
He has allowed 36 home runs, third-most in MLB. That’s not so good.
But, as Servais said, getting Kikuchi acclimated to a new team, a new league and — not to be discounted — a new culture were always going to be hurdles this year.
“There’s been a lot going on off the field. He became a father for the first time; he lost his father during the year,” Servais said. “At some point this winter he’ll look back at everything he’s experienced — his first time out pitching (for the Mariners) in front of 50,000 people at the Tokyo Dome; a great outing at Yankee Stadium; there’s been a lot of highlights for him. And there’s been some struggles. I think without question, he learned more than anyone else on our team this year. And he’s still got more to go.”