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Shohei Ohtani homers off Yusei Kikuchi in Angels’ 12-3 win over M’s

UPDATED: Sat., June 8, 2019, 11:13 p.m.

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, left, waits as the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, center, is congratulated by third base coach Mike Gallego as he rounds third after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning Saturday, June 8, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, left, waits as the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, center, is congratulated by third base coach Mike Gallego as he rounds third after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning Saturday, June 8, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
By Greg Beacham Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Shohei Ohtani homered and singled in his first three major league at-bats against countryman Yusei Kikuchi, leading the Los Angeles Angels to a 12-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night.

Ohtani’s fourth-inning homer was the Angels’ third consecutive dinger in four pitches off Kikuchi (3-4), who was chased from his rough start shortly afterward. Tommy La Stella and Mike Trout also homered before Ohtani hit the first big league homer by a Japanese-born hitter off a Japanese-born pitcher since 2009.

The Angels’ designated hitter won the much-anticipated first stateside meeting between the stars, who also faced off five times in their domestic league. The 27-year-old Kikuchi and the 24-year-old Ohtani both attended Hanamaki Higashi High School in northern Japan, although their age gap meant they were never teammates.

Kikuchi has arrived in the majors one season after Ohtani won the AL Rookie of the Year award for his two-way play. Kikuchi got a $56 million deal to make the move, but his ERA is up to 4.99 after he took his third consecutive loss while giving up nine hits and six earned runs to the Angels, who have scored 16 earned runs against him over three starts.

Meanwhile, Ohtani has found another groove at the plate after returning from Tommy John surgery last month. He added an RBI double in the fifth inning off Tayler Scott, who made his major league debut in relief of Kikuchi.

Scott became the second South African player in major league history, and the first pitcher. The 27-year-old Johannesburg native, who moved to Arizona as a teenager to pursue his career, yielded four hits and three runs while striking out four in 2 2/3 innings.

Cesar Puello homered and drove in four runs, while Albert Pujols and Kevan Smith had two-run singles as the Angels pounded out 16 hits to win for just the second time in six games.

Kyle Seager and Edwin Encarnacion homered for the Mariners, who have lost six of eight.

Dozens of reporters covered the showdown, and Angel Stadium collectively oohed when Kikuchi’s first pitch to Ohtani was up and in, forcing the Angels star to bail out of the box. Ohtani hit a hard grounder to the right side on the third pitch and beat out an infield single.

After Pujols doubled, Smith brought home both runners in his first at-bat since May 21, when he incurred a concussion.

Ohtani grounded out to first in the second inning but moved a runner along in the process.

After La Stella opened the fourth with his 14th homer, Trout followed with his 17th of the season. Ohtani blasted the next pitch just over the fence in left-center for the sixth homer of his truncated season.

The Angels hadn’t hit three consecutive homers since September 2016, also against Seattle. A Japanese-born batter hadn’t homered off a Japanese-born pitcher in the majors since July 8, 2009, when Kosuke Fukudome connected off Kenshin Kawakami.

After opener Noe Ramirez got four outs, Dillon Peters (1-0) yielded three runs over 5 2/3 resilient innings. The Triple-A starter capably filled in during a taxing stretch for the Angels, who were on the 17th game of 20 consecutive games without a day off.

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