Blue Jays pitcher Kikuchi continues impressive spring with three no-hit innings

LAKELAND, Fla. — Toronto pitcher Yusei Kikuchi continued his impressive spring with three no-hit innings before the Blue Jays fell 7-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates in spring training baseball action Tuesday.

Kikuchi has been making a strong bid to join ace Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios and newcomer Chris Bassitt in the Blue Jays' starting rotation for the upcoming season.

He has yet to surrender a run and has struck out nine over seven innings in three pre-season appearances.

On Tuesday, Kikuchi struck out two, walked two and threw 30 of his 51 pitches for strikes.

Ricky Tiedemann replaced Kikuchi in the fourth and gave up a two-run homer to Carlos Santana as the Pirates took a 2-0 lead.

Toronto tied it in the fifth, when Kevin Kiermaier scored on a triple by Rob Brantley, who was then driven home by a Whit Merrifield single.

Nick Gonzales scored in a throwing error by centre-fielder Wynton Bernard to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead in the seventh.

The Pirates broke the game open with a four-run eighth inning. Lolo Sanchez hit a solo home run off Hagen Danner, Zach Britton's throwing error with runners on second and third allowed two more runs and Gonzalez capped the scoring with an RBI single.

Carmen Mlodzinski pitched a scoreless seventh inning to pick up the win for Pittsburgh.

Adrian Hernandez pitched the seventh for Toronto despite not giving up a hit or an earned run in his one inning of work.

Toronto (6-4) will face Minnesota on Wednesday at their spring training ground in Dunedin, Fla.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2023.

The Canadian Press