Yusei Kikuchi (7-2) Struck Out Eight, Blue Jays Rout Athletics 12-1

Jon Blacker/The Canadian Press via AP
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi (16) throws to first base to put out Oakland Athletics’ Carlos Perez after fielding a ground ball during the first inning of a baseball game in Toronto, Sunday, June 25, 2023.

TORONTO (AP) — George Springer moved into second place on baseball’s career list with his 55th leadoff home run, Yusei Kikuchi pitched a season-high seven innings and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Oakland Athletics 12-1 on Sunday.

Tony Kemp hit a solo home run, his third, but Oakland lost for the 10th time in 11 games following a seven-game winning streak. The Athletics are 40 games below .500 at 20-60, tying for the ninth-worst record through 80 games in major league history. It’s the worst 80-game start since Detroit opened 19-61 in 2003.

Springer went 2 for 3 with a walk and two RBIs, including a sacrifice fly. His game-opening drive broke a tie with Alfonso Soriano and gave the 2017 World Series MVP sole possession of second place on baseball’s all-time list. Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson leads with 81 leadoff home runs.

“It’s special, it’s cool,” Springer said. “You don’t really think of that as a kid or as a player, but it’s awesome. I’m happy about it.”

Springer connected on right-hander Luis Medina’s 1-0 pitch, driving it 392 feet. The homer was Springer’s 11th.

Springer has 16 leadoff home runs since joining the Blue Jays before the 2021 season, including three this season. The four-time All-Star set Toronto’s single-season mark with nine leadoff homers in 2022.

“When he’s swinging at the right pitch, he’s as dangerous as anyone,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “He makes us go at the top of the lineup. He’s a big part of what we are, how we’re built.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had two hits and an RBI and Santiago Espinal reached base three times and drove in two for Toronto.

Cavan Biggio hit a three-run homer, his seventh, and Bo Bichette had two hits and an RBI as the Blue Jays won for the 10th time in their past 12 home meetings with the Athletics.

Kikuchi (7-2) allowed one run and two hits. He walked two and struck out eight, winning for the first time since May 30 against Milwaukee.

“It’s always fun when he’s on the mound because he cares so much,” Springer said. “He’s been quietly very, very good.”

The left-handed Kikcuhi has a 2.28 ERA in five June starts.

“It was a great, great day for him,” Schneider said.

Kikuchi retired the first 10 batters in order before Carlos Pérez doubled in the fourth. Kikuchi struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

Medina (1-7) allowed four runs, three earned, and four hits in five innings. He struck out four and walked a career-worst seven. Medina walked seven total batters in four May appearances.

“It was a weird outing,” Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said. “He had, at one point, seven 0-2 counts and quite a few four-pitch walks. Command was key today. He struggled, he fought himself with throwing strikes.”

Biggio’s homer, a first-pitch drive off right-hander Yacksel Ríos, was the big hit in Toronto’s five-run eighth.