Yusei Kikuchi pitched one-hit ball over seven shutout innings to earn his first win of the season on Thursday as the Seattle Mariners beat the Houston Astros 1-0 to snap a four-game skid.
In his fifth start of the season, Kikuchi (1-1) flirted with a no-hitter against the American League's highest-scoring offense at Minute Maid Park until he allowed a double to Carlos Correa with one out in the seventh inning.
The lefty, who had only let Houston reach on walks in the first and third inning, struck out seven in a 95-pitch effort with his cutter bamboozling opposing batters.
"I've managed to work my cutter around the zone, one to be fouled away and another to get strikes," said Kikuchi. "I wanted to win positively. It gives me a sense of fulfillment."
Taylor Trammell's solo home run off Luis Garcia (0-3) to open the third inning provided the only run of the game as Kikuchi also mixed up his fastball and changeup to keep the home team off the board.
"I'm not sure if it was my best outing to date, but it also boosts the team's confidence to have played a good game against the Astros."
His defensive prowess was also on display in the seventh. With a runner on second and one out, the Japanese slid to field a Yuli Gurriel chopper right in front of home plate before firing to first base for the out.
"My effort would have been half-hearted if I didn't slide. I did that many times (in training) when I was at Seibu (Lions)," Kikuchi said.