The first inning has usually given Hyun-jin Ryu fits, and it has never been as easy as 1-2-3 on the road this year.
But he has always put up a zero outside Los Angeles to start a game, a key reason for the road dominance he takes into Wednesday night when the Dodgers face Johnny Cueto and the Cincinnati Reds.
Ryu (7-2, 3.08 ERA) has given up only four runs – three of them coming on two home runs – while going 5-0 with a 0.95 ERA in six road starts. Despite a 4.91 ERA in the first inning, allowing six runs and 15 hits with six walks in 11 outings, the only one in which he’s surrendered any runs on the road has been the sixth.
However, he has permitted at least one baserunner in the opening inning of all six road games, yielding six hits and three walks. He gave up two singles in the first Friday at Colorado but induced a double-play ground ball to protect a 1-0 lead and gave up two runs in six innings of an eventual 7-2 victory over the Rockies.
Ryu, 4-0 in as many starts since coming off the disabled list, has never pitched in Cincinnati but beat the Reds (29-34) both times he faced them. The second one came at the expense of Cueto (5-5, 1.97) on May 26 and nearly in grand fashion. The left-hander almost one-upped Josh Beckett the day after his teammate threw a no-hitter, retiring his first 21 batters before Todd Frazier ended his perfect-game bid with a double in the eighth.
"He was throwing every pitch in any count and just kept us off balance really well," Reds left fielder Chris Heisey said after that loss. "He wasn’t leaving anything over the middle of the plate. It was almost like he was setting up his fastball with his changeup and his curveball. He did a great job of mixing it up and not giving in."
Cueto was reached for four runs – one earned – in 6 1-3 innings before Los Angeles (35-31) hung on for a 4-3 victory. He’s gone 1-3 with a 4.13 ERA in four starts since a three-hit shutout of San Diego on May 15, and he yielded four runs in a season-low five innings of an 8-0 loss to Philadelphia on Friday.
The right-hander tied a season high with six hits allowed – he leads the majors with an opponent batting average of .160 – and threw a season-low 92 pitches.
"After five I took him out simply because we’ve asked a lot of Johnny," manager Bryan Price told the team’s official website. "We’ve asked him to throw seven to nine innings darn near every start."
Cueto is 1-5 despite a 3.19 ERA in seven lifetime starts versus the Dodgers and has struggled against Matt Kemp, who is 6 for 12 with two homers in their matchups.
He also has been lacking run support from his offense – the Reds have failed to provide him any in five of his 13 outings.
Los Angeles is 4-1 on its seven-game road swing following Tuesday’s 6-1 victory. Hanley Ramirez’s two-run single capped a three-run fifth and Justin Turner had his fourth straight multihit game for the Dodgers, who have outscored opponents 29-11 on the trip and are an MLB-best 22-12 on the road.
"You have to basically continue to win series, continue to play well where the team’s confidence grows, and then just that feeling is back," manager Don Mattingly told the team’s website.
Cincinnati has dropped five of seven, scoring two or fewer runs in each defeat.
Joey Votto went 1 for 3 in his first action since May 16 after being on the disabled list with a strained left quad.