ST. LOUIS — Hyun-Jin Ryu has been pitching more like a savvy veteran then a rookie this season.
Ryu pitched seven stellar innings and got help from a three-run homer by A.J. Ellis as the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-1 Thursday night.
The Dodgers have won 17 of their last 18 games on the road, with the only loss coming Tuesday to St. Louis in the second game of the four-game set. Los Angeles returns home for a six-game home stand against Tampa and the New York Mets.
Although he is in his first year with the Dodgers, Ryu pitched professionally in Korea for seven years before coming to Los Angeles, and it shows, according to Ellis.
“This guy knows how to pitch so well,” Ellis said. “He pitches to the scoreboard as well as anyone I’ve caught. He knew he had a great lineup across the way that we had to face, and from the get-go, he was really locked in.”
Ryu (11-3) allowed one unearned run on five hits while striking out seven and walking no one. He increased his winning percentage to .786, which is the highest winning percentage for a rookie in Dodgers’ history.
He shut down the Cardinals without his best fastball.
“Most of my pitches were on point today,” Ryu said through an interpreter. “The only concern I had was that my fastball, the velocity was not as high as I hoped it would be. Thanks to my other pitches, I was able to get out of the innings.”
Fellow Los Angeles rookie Yasiel Puig had three hits to raise his batting average to .377. Adrian Gonzalez drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and Jerry Hairston had a pinch-hit RBI single.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was thrilled to take three of four from the Cardinals.
“This is a good club over there,” Mattingly said. “Just like us, they feel like they got to win every day. We feel like we have to do the same. To get three out of four from them makes you feel good.”
Los Angeles spoiled the first Major League start for St. Louis rookie Carlos Martinez (0-1), who was called up from Triple-A Memphis earlier in the day to make the start. Martinez lasted just 4 2-3 innings before leaving with cramps. He allowed all four runs on seven hits and three walks.
“I thought overall he did a pretty nice job,” said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny. “His stuff’s electric; there’s no question about that.”
Matt Holliday had two hits and scored the Cardinals’ only run. St. Louis fell four games back of Pittsburgh in the National League Central race.
With the Dodgers leading 1-0, Holliday singled with two outs to keep the fourth inning alive. David Freese followed with a single to center, and when Andre Ethier’s throw into the infield hit the second base bag and got away, Holliday came home to even the score.
Gonzalez walked with one out in the fifth and Puig followed with a single. Puig was erased by Ethier’s fielder’s choice, but Ellis then drove Martinez’s pitch into the Dodgers’ bullpen in left field to make it 4-1.
“It was just one of those things, where you’re trying to put a nice swing on something and drive a run in,” Ellis said. “In that situation, sometimes you’re rewarded with a little more than you’re looking for.” Notes: Cardinals rookie pitcher Shelby Miller, who left Wednesday night’s game after two pitches when he was struck on the pitching elbow by a Carl Crawford line drive, said before the game he is ready to go. “I don’t think I’m going to miss a beat,” Miller said. “It’s less sore than if I threw 100 pitches.” … The Dodgers won the season series between the teams by a 4-3 count and now lead the all-time series between the teams 1,012-1,009. … Martinez is the fifth rookie to make a start for St. Louis this season.