LOS ANGELES — A few hours after Josh Beckett pitched a no-hitter in Philadelphia, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu that the only way to top Beckett’s feat was to throw a perfect game.
Ryu almost did.
The Korean-born Dodgers pitcher came within six outs of a perfect game and baseball history Monday night, but he settled for a 4-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Dodger Stadium.
"I told Ryu last night when we got on the plane he had to throw a perfect game today to top Beckett," Mattingly recalled. "For a while there, I was like, ‘Whew, he might do it.’ "
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Ryu retired the first 21 batters he faced until Todd Frazier led off the eighth inning with a line-drive double to left field. Ryu gave up two more hits before he was lifted for Brian Wilson, and Kenley Jansen retired the final four outs in what became a nail-biter.
No team in major-league history has ever had back-to-back no-hitters. Beckett tossed a no-hitter Sunday against the Phillies, and Ryu — with the help of two superb diving stops by third baseman Justin Turner — almost one-upped his teammate.
"Of course, in the back of my mind I was thinking about it," Ryu said through a team translator. "I think it’s the first time I’ve ever gone (past) seven innings of no hits in my professional career."
Dodgers pitchers went a combined 17 innings and 57 opponent at-bats without allowing a hit, a Los Angeles franchise record and the longest since the Angels went 17 innings in 2012 following Jered Weaver’s no-hitter on May 2.
"I think it shows what kind of pitching we have and what we’re capable of," Mattingly said.
Ryu’s shot at perfection may have been undone by his team’s 27-minute seventh inning in which they sent eight batters to the plate and scored three runs. Ryu even had a hand in the inning, reaching base on an error and driving in a run.
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Although Ryu said the long inning didn’t bother him, Mattingly said, "The biggest thing that happens in that game was that long, long inning. I think that hurts him at that point. It obviously gets us runs, and you never turn those down and we needed them tonight, but the long inning breaks the momentum for him."
In contrast to Beckett, who talked with teammates and ignored the baseball tradition of sitting alone on the bench during the game, Ryu was a solitary figure in the Dodgers dugout.
Maybe he was thinking about his conversation with Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt: To best Beckett, he would need to throw a perfect game.
"I remember it," Ryu said. "It was right before we got on the plane. We laughed about it. It wasn’t until the seventh inning that I thought it could happen."