In Ryu we trust.
Hyun-Jin Ryu threw seven shutout innings as the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Atlanta Braves, 6-0, in Game One of the National League Division Series on Thursday night.
Before the game, three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, sat as austere as guard at Buckingham Palace, with his eager hands across his chest as he addressed the media.
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"I don't really need to prove myself to anybody," Kershaw boldly stated. "I just want my teammates to want me out there."
Kershaw was supposed to start this game. He had started Game 1 of the last six NLDS for the Dodgers and hadn't not been on the mound for the opener of a playoff series since 2009. He said he didn't agree or disagree with the decision necessarily, but you could tell from his face he wanted the ball in this game.
Instead, Kershaw watched as his teammate Hyun-Jin Ryu did what he's done all season at Dodger Stadium: he put up zeroes.
Ryu had a 1.15 ERA at Dodger Stadium in 2018, a number that was lowered to 1.03 by the end of the game.
Whether you agreed with the choice or not, it was the right call to start Ryu and now Kershaw will head to the hill with an extra day of rest for Game 2 of the series, and a chance to put a stranglehold on the Braves.
"I don't think I need to answer that," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts after the game when asked if he made the right decision to start Ryu in hindsight. "I think we feel pretty good about it. He pitched well...it was good to see and we needed that one."
Los Angeles led the National League in home runs this season and set a franchise record with 235 during the year. That trend didn't change on Thursday as the Dodgers blasted three homers in the game.
A he's done time and time again, Joc Pederson got the Dodgers going with a leadoff homer to start the game.
Pederson had eight leadoff homers during the season—a franchise record—and has now homered in four of his last seven postseason games. He now has 12 leadoff homers in his career.
"I hit before the game, so maybe I'm just a little fresher," said Pederson when asked why he thinks he has success to start the game. "I got behind 0-2, and I was able to battle and put a ball in the barrel, but I definitely wasn't trying to that, but it was really nice."
Max Muncy cleared the bases with a three-run shot off Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz in the bottom of the second inning that gave the Dodgers a 4-0 lead.
"The Muncy home run hurt," said Foltynewicz following the loss. "Especially after hitting Joc Pederson with strikes, walking Turner and then it was similar to the situation when I faced him during the season. They got their power up and you saw what happened."
The homer was Muncy's first career postseason hit, becoming the fourth Dodger to homer in his first career postseason game joining Tom Wilson (2004), Mike Piazza (1995) and Jim Gilliam (1953).
"This is what everyone dreams of doing," said Muncy about his first career postseason homer. "Getting a big hit in a playoff game, and more importantly, just being in the playoffs. I was definitely a little more exited running around the bases. I was trying to make it feel like a regular game, but there was definitely more in there."
Muncy would finish the game with one home run, three walks and three RBI, becoming just the fourth player ever with three or more RBI and three or more walks in a playoff game joining Eddie Murray (1983), Barry Bonds (2002) and Manny Ramirez (2007). He is the first one to do it in their first career postseason game.
Foltynewicz would bat for himself in the top of the third, but did not return to the mound in the bottom half of the inning, instead replaced by left-hander Sean Newcomb who no-hit the Dodgers through 8 and 2/3 innings on July 29 in Atlanta.
Foltynewicz (0-1) took the loss, allowing four runs on three hits with three walks and five strikeouts in two innings in his postseason debut.
"I've been thinking about it all night," said Foltynewicz of the Muncy homer after the game. "With two strikes and two outs, for it to all unwind like that really takes the cake. For that to happen and put your team down 4 to 0 in the second inning is not where you want to be, especially opening up a series and then you have to face Kershaw tomorrow."
Kiké Hernandez hit the third home run of the game when he hammered a 1-1 changeup from Brad Bach into left-center to give LA a 5-0 lead.
"My first at-bat I noticed I was too quick," said Hernandez of his game and home run. "Second AB I tried to slow things down and I just missed it. That third AB I was just trying to look for a pitch to hit and he left a changeup out over the plate."
Despite the longballs, the story of the game was all about Ryu as the Korean left-hander dazzled the nearly 51,000 Dodgers fans in attendance with eight strikeouts and no walks over seven shutout innings.
"Having the fans behind my back definitely helps," said Ryu of his success pitching at home. "I'm happy I was able to keep my promise that I would go full-throttle from the get go. I'm just happy that I was able to do what I did today"
Ryu improved to 2-0 in his postseason career (four starts), in his first MLB Playoff action since 2014, and also recorded his first career postseason hit with a single in the fourth inning.
"Definitely the last three years have been tough," he said through a translator. "But tonight seemed to be the fruition of all that hard work that I put in."
Rookie Caleb Ferguson threw a scoreless eighth inning in his postseason debut.
This is the third meeting between the Dodgers and the Braves in the postseason, with Los Angeles last defeating Atlanta 3-1 in the 2013 NLDS.
The victory was the 18th postseason shutout in Dodgers franchise history.
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The 2014 MVP Clayton Kershaw will take the mound in Game 2 on Friday against Anibal Sanchez for Atlanta. First pitch is scheduled for 6:37PM PST.
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