It was in the bottom of the first inning with two outs and no runners on base. There was something curious about the second ball Ryu Hyun-jin threw to Nolan Arenado, the third hitter of the Colorado Rockies. Categorized as a 132 km/h change-up on MLB.com, it was faster than any other change-ups, slightly slower than a cutter, and bent more dramatically.
“It was a slow slider somewhere between 132 and 134 km/h,” explained Ryu Hyun-jin in an interview after the game. “I wanted it to be slower than a cutter but fall more steeply.”
The analysis on MLB.com is based on the existing pitching data, so it can make a mistake when it comes to the type of breakers rarely performed by the pitcher. Until 2016, Ryu often used his 132 km/h slider, before replacing it with a cutter on an average speed of 140 km/h in 2017. And on Wednesday, Ryu came up with a “slow slider” unseen over the last three seasons, which was the magic bullet he devised for himself to survive the tough game on Coors Field, a stadium dubbed as the grave of pitchers.
“Pitchers feel immense pressure in Coors Field, and it takes a lot of guts to throw a ball, which he is not used to throw,” said Kim Sun-woo, the major league pitcher-turned-baseball commentator, who once pulled off a shutout at Coors Field.
While the Dodgers won the game 5-1, slamming two homers in the ninth inning, Ryu had to take a rain check on his 12th win this season, and the 150th in his career as he left the mound in the seventh inning when the game was tied scoreless. “He is one of the leading pitchers in the major league baseball, who always presents a chance for his team to win. Today, this held true,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, praising Ryu’s performance against the Rockies.