10/4/2013 10:29 P.M. ET
Ryu is rookie in LA but veteran of big stage
Dodgers lefty can draw on international experience for pivotal Game 3 start
By Paul Casella / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- This is exactly the type of scenario the Dodgers had envisioned all the way back in December when they chose to commit more than $200 million over a two-day span to Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
After the pitching staff played a key role in Los Angeles' run to a National League West title, the Dodgers on Sunday will turn to Ryu in a pivotal Game 3 against the Braves at Dodger Stadium. Two days after the Braves evened the series at 1-1, Ryu will take the mound opposite Julio Teheran at 5 p.m. PT on TBS as he looks to help put the Dodgers back in control as the series shifts to Los Angeles.
The Dodgers focused last offseason around bolstering their pitching staff behind Kershaw, and so far the moves have paid off to the tune of an NL West title. After a slow start, Greinke found his groove and put up ace-like numbers alongside Kershaw, all the while Ryu provided a consistently solid outing nearly every time through the rotation.
"I'm really excited to see what he's going to do on Sunday because he is a big-game pitcher who has got so many different weapons, so many different ways to get you out," said Ryu's batterymate, A.J. Ellis. "He's been a joy to catch all year."
Though technically a rookie, Ryu was a seven-time all-star in the Korea Baseball Organization before signing a six-year, $36 million contract with the Dodgers last December. Ryu finished his first year in the Majors with a 14-8 regular-season record to go along with a 3.00 ERA over 30 starts.
Tale of the Tape: Game 3
|2013 regular season|
|Overall: 30 GS, 14-8, 3.00 ERA, 49 BB, 154 K||Overall: 30 GS, 14-8, 3.20 ERA, 45 BB, 170 K|
|Key stat: Opponents hitting .067 with bases loaded||Key stat: 2.97 ERA in the second half|
|At Dodger Stadium|
|2013: 15 GS, 7-4, 2.32 ERA
Career: 15 GS, 7-4, 2.32 ERA
|2013: Did not pitch
Career: Did not pitch
|Against this opponent|
|2013: 2 GS, 0-0, 2.13 ERA
Career: 2 GS, 0-0, 2.13 ERA
|2013: Did not pitch
Career: Did not pitch
|Loves to face: Jason Heyward, 1-for-7, 3 K
Hates to face: Freddie Freeman, 3-for-4
|Loves to face: Michael Young 0-for-3, 1 K
Hates to face: Only faced two Dodgers
|Why he'll win: Rises to the occasion on big stage||Why he'll win: Has a lively fastball with good command|
|Pitcher beware: Has not pitched in postseason||Pitcher beware: Inexperienced in October|
|Bottom line: Change speeds and attack the strike zone||Bottom line: Build on strong second half, don't get rattled on the road|
Considering Ryu's experience in Korea, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly isn't too concerned about sending the "rookie" to the mound on Sunday for Los Angeles' first home postseason game since 2009.
"Hyun-Jin is a guy that's a rookie, but has really pitched a lot of baseball professionally, just not here," Mattingly said. "So he's an older-type rookie. I'm hoping he'll react good. You don't know how anybody is going to react, but I feel like [all our rookies] will react good, and I look forward to watching it."
Along with dominating the KBO, Ryu also has some big-game experience. The 26-year-old southpaw earned the win in Korea's gold medal-clinching victory at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and went 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA for the second-place Korean squad at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
"This is definitely not going to be the biggest game he's ever pitched, which is a nice thing to be able to say about him," Ellis said. "This is a guy who's basically the Clayton Kershaw of his country -- best pitcher there for years. He's a guy who's pitched in WBCs and Olympics, so he's pitched on a big stage before."
Ryu coasted for much of the season, posting a 12-3 record and 2.91 ERA through his first 23 Major League starts. Over his final seven starts, however, he went just 2-5 -- despite still putting up a respectable 3.30 ERA during that span -- while also dealing with a back ailment that forced him to miss a start in early September.
Ryu insists that he is fully healthy now and ready to embrace his first big league postseason experience. As for his manager, Mattingly fully expects Ryu to channel his past success on the international level into a masterful Game 3 performance.
"Some of the scouts that we talked to [before signing him] seemed to think that all the WBC games he's pitched and things like that, that's when his best outings have come against the best teams," Mattingly said. "So we feel like he'll step up."
To this point, Ryu has seemingly risen to every other challenge in his debut season in the Majors. He wasted no time adapting to the new culture and his new team back in Spring Training, and has even made strides to improve his English throughout the summer.
Following Ryu's first start in Dodger blue, Ellis indicated that he was trying to pick up on some Korean to improve communication between the two. Though Ellis hasn't exactly lived up to his own expectations -- admittedly knowing "probably even less" Korean now than he did back then -- Ryu has come a long way with his English.
"To his credit he's picked up a ton of English. We talk baseball a lot," Ellis said. "He's such a smart, intuitive guy, who has a great feel for the game of baseball. Baseball is a universal international language in itself. When he takes the mound, it's my Dodger teammate, it's not anything else. We've really grown together, him and I, by working together."
Along with having a universal language, baseball also has a universal way to measure success -- winning.
"He's a guy who's all about us, all about winning," Ellis said. "So I think he's going to be great."