|(photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)|
Sunday, March 30, 2014
Ryu Steps Up Again, Unfortunately Bullpen Coughs Up Win In Domestic Opener
He's the junkiest of junk ball pitchers in the league. If he gets ahead of you 0-1, it's a total guessing game for hitters. Will he come back with that deceptively fast 94 MPH fastball or go with his best secondary pitch, his 84 mph change up? Sometimes that next delivery is a fall of the table slider at about 58 feet leaving the batter lunging for a moving dart dropping out of the zone. Scouts said that slider wasn't very good before he arrived in the States last year. I wonder what they are saying now.
Hyun-Jin Ryu came advertised as a pitcher with mediocre stuff, but that label was clearly inaccurate. International scouts clearly didn't address his baseball IQ, that is up the charts. This guy's craftiness gets outs and puts zeros on the scoreboard. Take tonight's domestic opener for example: With Ryu in trouble at the outset, (with men on second and third with none out), he had 'em right where he wanted them. Chase Headley was struck out on a fastball, off speed curve and change. He then walked Gyorko on four pitches by design. Ryu wanted those bases full as he induced the double play grounder off the bat of Yonder Alonso to end the inning on the next pitch. The Padres never provided threat off him after that, falling like dominoes.
Sixteen Friars in a row went down to be exact. Lazy pop ups, harmless ground balls, that occasional K mixed in. Up they came and back to the dugout they returned shaking their heads in frustration. All in a high tense atmosphere with the Dodger offense struggling to put runs off of Andrew Cashner before that rare sellout crowd at Petco Park.
Ryu's fastball normally sits between 88-92, but he hits his spots with it. Pinpoint accuracy is his bread and butter. Watch him hit his target. The comparisons to David Wells are quite accurate. This is a guy with command. He simply knows how to pitch and that's a rare thing in the game these days for a player in his second year in the league. It isn't often that a pitcher uses the change-up in order to set up his fastball, but the backward thinking Ryu does just that, and it works for him.
So as Dodger starters like Kershaw and Greinke get the headlines, don't forget the crafty Korean lefty. He just might be the unsung hero of this pitching staff and sneak his way to a twenty-win season. That is if the bullpen can hold the lead for him.
Brian Wilson allowed a run for the second time in his Dodger career as Seth Smith blasted his 2-0 fastball deep into the San Diego night. He then simply couldn't get batters out. A walk, a misplayed sac. bunt, a gaffe by Juan Uribe allowing a stolen base of third, and then a two run single and this game was over. It remains to be seen if this performance by Wilson was an anomaly or what will be a long season for the Dodger set up man as he starts the year with an ERA of infinity.
There's little doubt this was a disappointing bullpen debut for the team, something that many consider to be one of the Dodger's greatest strengths. Los Angeles had the Padres right where they wanted them. A one-run lead with Wilson and Jansen to follow. It was the script that the team hopes to repeat many more times this season, though a larger lead than 1-run would be ideal.
(Nice comeback by Chris Perez and Paco Rodriguez with the three straight strikeouts following the Wilson debacle).