At Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles Friday, fans gave a standing ovation for South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin as he walked off the mound in the eighth inning with two outs. It was a praise for the starting pitcher who has made another scoreless start of the season, as well as congratulations for the 32-year-old South Korean pitcher, who has further cemented his case for the National League Pitcher of the Month award.
Ryu threw 7 2/3 shutout innings against the New York Mets at home, picking up his eighth win of the season. He held the Mets to just four hits, while striking out seven and walking one, leading the team’s 2-0 victory. With a major league-best 1.48 ERA, further improved from a previous 1.65 ERA, the left-hander is the only qualified pitcher in the Major League Baseball with a sub-2.00 ERA this year.
Ryu has also strengthened his case for the Pitcher of the Month award. The award is a Major League Baseball award named each by the National League and the American League, and winners are announced on the second day of every month (local time). Former Dodgers pitcher Park Chan-ho is the only South Korean to have earned the award in July 1998. Ryu went 5-0 with a 0.59 ERA in six starts in May. Among contenders for the feat, Atlanta Braves’ Mike Soroka went 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA this month, while Brandon Woodruff of the Milwaukee Brewers went 4-0. Based on numbers, both seem to be weaker candidates for the award than Ryu.
The Dodgers batters, who have helped the South Korean starter with scoring at least six runs in previous games, were relatively muted on Friday, only scoring a single run. In the pitcher’s duel, what helped the left-hander was an unexpected pitching pattern. While he had usually pitched fastballs in the early innings, Ryu tossed a slow curve ball at speeds of 117 kilometers as the first ball of the game Friday. “Amed Rosario, who was the first hitter of the Mets, made a surprised look toward the bench after Ryu hurled the curve. It seemed Ryu’s pitching plan was completely different from what the Mets batters had expected,” said Kim Sun-woo, a commentator at MBC Sports+.
The left-hander’s change-up was still formidable. Thirty-three out of 106 pitches (31.1 percent) he hurled Friday were change-up balls, more than the average of the season (23.8 percent). Eight of them were swings and misses, while six led to a grounder or a fly. “I tossed change-ups a lot today. I was confident in the type, and had good command of my pitches,” Ryu said. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts also praised Ryu’s change-ups, saying that he could use them to strike out or lead batters to swing and miss.