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Betts, Dodgers hand Blue Jays fifth consecutive loss

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TORONTO — Facing down superstar Shohei Ohtani brought out Yusei Kikuchi's hardest pitches.

Kikuchi threw the fastest pitches of his season in Ohtani's three at bats against him but the Los Angeles Dodgers still beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-2 on Saturday. Kikuchi said his adrenalin was pumping when pitching against his fellow Japanese player.

"I threw my best fastball there this year," said Kikuchi, referring to a 98.2 m.p.h. four-seam fastball in the second inning that Ohtani hit for an RBI. "But I think the exit velocity on his hit, it was pretty good as well, so he got the best of me there but I was glad to get him out after that."

Kikuchi struck out Ohtani, who went to the same high school as him in Japan though at different times, in the fourth. Ohtani finished the day 1 for 5, a relatively quiet day for arguably the best hitter in baseball. He has a .347 batting average with seven home runs and 18 runs batted in.

On top of the 98.2 m.p.h. four-seamer Ohtani got a piece of, Kikuchi hit 97.9 m.p.h. on the radar gun twice and 97.7 once, all against Ohtani. Those weren't just the hardest pitches of the game, but the hardest he has thrown this season.

"It was tough facing him, especially because there was a runner on every time when I faced him, so it made it that much more difficult," said Kikuchi through translator Yusuke Oshima. "He's getting better and better every year so the main focus in the matchups with him was just not to give up the big hit like a home run."

Mookie Betts went 3 for 5, including a triple and an RBI single, to lead Los Angeles (18-11) to its sixth consecutive win. Chris Taylor and Ohtani each had an RBI single in the second and Canadian-American first baseman Freddie Freeman's sacrifice fly scored Betts in the first.

Tyler Glasnow (5-1) had nine strikeouts, allowing a run on two hits and three walks over six innings. Joe Kelly, Ryan Brasier and Evan Phillips came out of the Dodgers' bullpen to preserve the win.

Davis Schneider had an RBI double in the seventh and scored in the ninth as Toronto (13-15) lost its fifth straight game. Cavan Biggio drove Schneider in with a two-out base hit.

"I feel like you're never really out of it until all 27 outs are made," said Schneider. "Kind of came up short there but you've just got to fight until the end."

Kikuchi (2-2) gave up four runs on nine hits, striking out three over six innings. Blue Jays relievers Genesis Cabrera, Yimi Garcia, Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., and Nate Pearson combined for three innings of scoreless relief.

Ohtani was loudly booed by most of the 39,405 fans in attendance whenever his name was announced over the Rogers Centre's public address system.

The Japanese superstar earned the enmity of Toronto fans after he chose the Dodgers over the Blue Jays during free agency this past winter.

He signed a 10-year, US$700 million deal with Los Angeles on Dec. 11. It's the largest contract in professional sports history.

"Once I heard the boos, I just kind of turned my ears off," said Glasnow.

There was a small section of fans who loudly cheered whenever Freeman, whose parents are Canadian, came to the plate. That same group got a few "Let's go Dodgers" chants going in their section as well.

Betts led the game off with a triple after Toronto centre-fielder Daulton Varsho missed the ball on a diving catch. Two batters later, Freeman hit a sacrifice fly that gave Betts plenty of time to run home for an early Los Angeles lead.

Taylor added another run in the second with a single to left field, driving in Enrique Hernandez from third. Two batters later, Ohtani singled to right to cash in Andy Pages and give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead.

Betts drove in another run for the visitors in the fourth, with a single to shallow centre field scoring Miguel Rojas.

Toronto finally answered back in the seventh when Schneider's double scored Danny Jansen and ended Glasnow's outing. It was Schneider's 11th RBI of the young season.

Biggio cut into the Dodgers' lead with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Schneider had reached base after Phillips's throwing error got him to second and then Biggio singled to score his teammate.

ON DECK — Kevin Gausman (0-3) takes the mound for the Blue Jays in their series finale with Los Angeles.

James Paxton (2-0) of Richmond, B.C., will get the start for the Dodgers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2024.