Pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu #99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds during the MLB game at Dodger Stadium on May 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Don Mattingly joked after Monday’s game that he told Hyun-Jin Ryu he had to throw a perfect game to top what Josh Beckett did the day before, and for seven innings it looked like Ryu was going to follow through on the challenge.
Ryu was masterful in the Dodgers 4-3 win against the Cincinnati Reds retiring the first 21 batters of the game with most of the outs coming via the strikeout or ground ball. He kept Reds hitters off balance all night throwing a changeup in the low 80s and combining it with a fastball clocked as high as 95 mph.
His line of 7 1/3 innings and three earned runs allowed don’t really do his outing justice.
“It was a pleasure to catch him that’s for sure,” catcher Drew Butera told SportsNet LA after the game. “He worked his off speed (pitches) well and his fastball was electric. It got on guys and they couldn’t pick it up.”
As the hitless innings mounted up for Ryu it was Butera who was feeling anxious.
“I was a nervous wreck, but you try not to think about it,” he said.
His pitcher was also trying to keep his composure with thoughts of a perfect game dancing in his head.
“Of course, it was in the back of my mind. I was thinking about it,” Ryu said afterward. He also said it was the first time in his professional career he could remember taking a perfect game into the eighth inning of a game.
Rest may have cost Ryu his date with destiny.
He was in the mix during the bottom of the seventh inning when the Dodgers scored two runs en route to a 4-0 lead. Ryu reached on a fielding error which scored Justin Turner and a few minutes later scored from second base on a two-run double by Carl Crawford.
Ryu took the mound in the eighth after sitting for nearly thirty minutes; his perfect game still in tact. It was gone after just one batter.
Todd Frazier led off with a double down the left field line. That was followed by a single from Ryan Ludwick, and a sacrifice fly by Chris Heisey also ended Ryu’s shutout and cut the Dodgers lead to 4-1. Ryu was then pulled after giving up a single Brayan Pena. He was given a standing ovation from the Dodger Stadium crowd as he walked to the dugout.
Ryu said the long rest in the seventh didn’t have an influence on what transpired in the eighth.
“Pitchers are always expected to wait twenty, thirty minutes in between innings. I think it just shows that maybe I just wasn’t ready,” Ryu said.
Mattingly wasn’t so sure about his lefty’s thinking.
“I think the long inning kind of broke the momentum for him,” he said.
Brian Wilson replaced Ryu and continued his trend of pitching poorly. After walking the bases loaded, speedster Billy Hamilton laced a two-run double into the right-center field gap to cut the Dodgers lead to 4-3. With two outs Wilson walked the bases loaded again before closer Kenley Jansen was called in to clean up the mess.
Jansen struck out Brandon Phillips to get out of the inning, and closed it out in the ninth to pick up his 15th save of the season.
Ryu’s outing and poor defense by his teammates overshadowed the outing by Reds starter Johnny Cueto (4-4).
The right-hander took the loss, but matched Ryu pitch for pitch. The only two runs the Dodgers scored with Cueto on the mound came from fielding errors. He only allowed one earned run in 6 1/3 innings and saw his ERA drop 1.83, good for fourth in the NL.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Ryu’s seven hitless innings pitched gave the Dodgers 17 in a row, a new LA Dodgers franchise record.