Maybe there’s something to be said about baseball players not reading English, proving the ages-old credo that the best baseball is played when you don’t think too much about it.
And, of course, Hyun-Jin Ryu couldn’t possibly dwell on how the Los Angeles Dodgers hadn’t beaten Arizona in six games, nor read about how they have been literally snake-bitten against the Diamondbacks who had won 11 of their last 13 from the Blue Crew.
So Ryu on Saturday night did what Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw couldn’t do the night before – he mastered the Diamondbacks, both on the mound and at the plate, sparking a 7-5 victory over Arizona.
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The South Korean lefthander easily handled the Diamondbacks through six innings and then showed how hittable the Dodger killer Ian Kennedy can be, if you don’t think too much about him, by getting three hits in his first three times at bat.
By the time Ryu’s mastery of the Diamondbacks had set in, Adrian Gonzalez had staked him to a lead with a solo homer leading off the fourth inning and the Dodgers had added two runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth inning.
By then, too, Gonzalez had matched Ryu’s 3-for-3 offensive numbers at that time and driven in two runs, as had Matt Kemp who singled home two runners in the sixth.
The Dodgers chased Kennedy out of the game in that sixth inning. Kennedy was charged with all six Dodger runs and 10 hits.
Ryu wouldn’t bat again. He had exceeded his pitch count, finishing out the sixth inning at just over 100 pitches, more than in his first two starts.
He probably had no business, with a comfortable lead, going to the mound in the seventh inning. But then again, this is a Dodger team managed as much on baseball romance and emotion as anything else, and he chanced the snake pit one last inning.
The Diamondbacks’ Alfredo Marte and Josh Wilson quickly singled to start the bottom of the seventh inning, dispatching Ryu to the showers with a standing ovation at Chase Field.
Ronald Belisario relieved Ryu who struck out nine while walking one and giving up an earned run in the fifth inning when the Diamondbacks cashed in Cliff Pennington’s single, a wild pitch, a sacrifice bunt and a ground out into a run.
In the seventh inning, Ryu was charged with two more runs when Marte and Wilson scored on back-to-back singles by Eric Hinske and Eric Chavez.
The Diamondbacks crept closer on Martin Parra’s solo home run of Kenley Jansen to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning.
Then Aaron Hill, nursing a badly bruised hand, almost tied the game with a pinch-hit double that almost cleared the fence in left field but still managed to score Miguel Montero who had singled to get on board.
Ramon Hernandez, the new catching acquisition starting his first game, gave the Dodgers some breathing room in the top of the ninth, driving in Andre Ethier with a double down the line in right field – Hernandez’s first hit for the Dodgers.
Brandon League closed out the game, getting the Diamondbacks out in 1-2-3 fashion and earning his fourth save of the season.
For the Dodgers, Skip Schumaker and Ethier drove in runs in the fifth inning, and Ryu started the three-run sixth with a two-out single.
Carl Crawford followed with a double, and Schumaker walked to load the bases for Kemp who later also scored on Gonzalez’s third hit of the night.
Crawford had a 2-for-5 game and also turned in a splendid running catch against the wall off the bat of Gerardo Parra to end the fifth inning.
Gonzalez finished the game 3-for-4. Ethier was 2-for-4.
But it was Ryu’s game and Ryu’s night. He was perfect at the plate and more than good enough on the mound.