For the Dodgers to overcome the final obstacle and win the World Series next month, they must beat elite pitching. This weekend’s three-game series against the New York Mets is offering a useful trial. The Mets are starting three hard-throwing right-handers, a species the Dodgers will no doubt often confront in the playoffs. The best of the trio, Jacob deGrom , took the mound Saturday.
On the opposite side, Hyun-Jin Ryu sought to recover from his worst stretch of his All-Star season. He was making his first start in 10 days after the Dodgers’ brass decided to skip his turn once through the rotation. It was a measure the Dodgers took to avoid letting fatigue derail Ryu. He is imperative for their championship aspirations.
The result was a classic pitchers’ duel, the kind increasingly uncommon in 2019, for seven innings before the Dodgers’ bullpen blinked in the eighth inning of their 3-0 loss .
Adam Kolarek was the Dodger summoned to relieve Ryu to start the eighth inning. The left-hander did his job by striking out the left-handed-hitting Robinson Cano. Joe Kelly (5-4) replaced Kolarek to face Todd Frazier, a right-handed batter. He hit Frazier with his first pitch. He recovered to strike out Juan Lagares and prompt another pitching change.
Advertisement This time, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts surfaced to bring in Julio Urias , another left-hander, to counter pinch-hitter Brandon Nimmo, who bats left-handed. But Urias hit Nimmo and walked Amed Rosario to load the bases for Rajai Davis.
Urias jumped ahead 1-2 when Davis fouled off a 97-mph fastball. He then tried to catch Davis off balance with a changeup, but the 82-mph pitch hung over the plate and Davis swatted it into the left-field corner. All three runs scored as the Mets (77-71), scrapping for the second wild-card spot, spilled out of the dugout in celebration.
Dodgers Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill tries to work through knee injury to keep season alive Dodgers Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill tries to work through knee injury to keep season alive The Dodgers’ Rich Hill thinks he may be able to adjust his mechanics to minimize his knee pain, but manager Dave Roberts wants to see what an MRI shows. Both Ryu and deGrom tossed seven scoreless innings. It was only the fifth major league game this season in which the starting pitchers logged at least seven innings without allowing a run.
DeGrom limited the Dodgers (96-54) to three hits. The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, who again is a candidate, plunked a batter but didn’t walk one and compiled eight strikeouts. The Dodgers stitched together their best threat in the seventh when Corey Seager and A.J. Pollock smacked consecutive two-out singles. But deGrom struck out Gavin Lux with his 101st pitch to conclude his sterling outing.
Advertisement Ryu matched deGrom minutes later. He was more efficient than his counterpart, needing 90 pitches to record 21 outs. He retired the final 13 batters he faced. He struck out six without issuing a walk. He did it with a familiar face behind the plate.
Roberts insisted the reason Russell Martin started at catcher was straightforward: The backup catcher needs to play somewhat regularly. Martin had started once in the previous five days. But Roberts knows numbers suggest that partnering Martin and Ryu has produced dominance from Ryu this season, even though he maintained the All-Star pitcher “really calls his own game.”
Entering Saturday, Ryu had a 1.70 earned-run average in 18 games with Martin, a 14-year veteran, behind the plate. Meanwhile, Ryu has posted a 5.81 ERA in five starts working with Will Smith. The rookie caught Ryu’s previous three starts before Saturday. Ryu allowed 17 runs across 13 1/3 innings in the three outings and failed to pitch through five innings. It was, by far, his worst stretch this season.
The sample size is tiny, and statistics summarizing catcher-pitcher relationships can be misleading. Ryu could have simply been fatigued in the three duds. He has logged more innings this season than any since 2014. The possibility was strong enough for the Dodgers to decide to skip him in the rotation. But Roberts acknowledged that the numbers do offer a possible window into the partnership. In this instance, Roberts said the club is still evaluating Smith’s work with Ryu.
Dodgers Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger could clinch NL MVP honor with Christian Yelich injured Dodgers Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger could clinch NL MVP honor with Christian Yelich injured With Christian Yelich out with a broken kneecap, Dodgers standout Cody Bellinger stands a good chance of winning the National League MVP title. “I think that there’s a comfort level with the visual,” the manager said of Ryu’s success with Martin. “They found a rhythm and a rapport. So you can’t under-appreciate the fact that Hyun-Jin has thrown well to him. But also I think Will does a nice job of getting prepared and he’s still continuing to learn these guys. So I really don’t have an answer.”
That ease could help Martin make the postseason roster over Austin Barnes, who started the season as the Dodgers’ first catcher. Barnes was sent to the minors in July and has appeared in one game since returning to the Dodgers on Sept. 6.
“Austin has been a part of what we’ve done for the last three years, and he’s done a tremendous job,” Roberts said. “But Russ [has been] here all year long and that veteran presence, one of our team leaders, guys gravitate towards him, as they do often. We haven’t made that final decision.”
On Saturday, Martin helped Ryu through seven masterful innings. The Mets mustered just two baserunners — both on singles in the second and third innings. Ryu finished with a flourish, striking out Pete Alonso, the major league home run leader, and Wilson Ramos to keep the scoreless tie intact. It wouldn’t stay without a run for long.
LINK ORIGINAL: Latimes