Hyun-jin Ryu’s recent dominance can be traced to a mechanical adjustment and the addition of a slider.
Extended rest has also been a contributing factor.
Ryu goes for a fifth straight victory Wednesday night, when the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers attempt to beat the Atlanta Braves for the sixth time in a row.
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Ryu (13-5, 3.21 ERA) is among the major league leaders in wins and has looked every bit like one of the best pitchers in the majors lately. He’s 4-0 with a 1.91 ERA with 32 strikeouts and four walks over 33 innings in his last five starts. The left-hander was tagged for seven runs and 10 hits over 2 1-3 innings in a 14-5 loss at Detroit on July 8 in his last outing before the win streak.
He’s changed the grip and arm angle on his slider and also tweaked his curveball.
Those moves continued to pay dividends Thursday, when Ryu went seven innings and combined with two relievers on a two-hitter in a 7-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
"I thought he did a nice job of changing speeds, using both sides of the plate," manager Don Mattingly told MLB’s official website. "He was able to keep them off balance enough and use all of his pitches. He’s a guy that’s a handful for anybody, and adding the slider is another weapon for him."
Additional rest also seems to benefit Ryu, who is 17-5 with a 2.70 ERA in 27 starts when he gets five or more days of rest, and he’s taking the mound at Turner Field under those circumstances.
He’s also held the Braves to three runs in 12 2-3 innings while not getting a decision in two career meetings. Beating Atlanta (60-59) for the first time would match his win total from last season – his first in the majors.
It would also improve the Dodgers (69-52) to 6-0 in the season series for the first time since 1988. Each of their five wins this year have come during a 13-5 stretch, including Tuesday’s 4-2 victory.
While Los Angeles’ pitchers have a 2.74 ERA over the past 18 games and 1.67 during a three-game winning streak, Carl Crawford has sparked the offense with six hits in this series. He’s 8 for 12 with three runs in three games after batting .167 in the previous 23 after returning from a sprained left ankle.
Atlanta, meanwhile, has averaged 2.5 runs while losing nine of 11 and is now five games back of NL East-leading Washington.
"We’re always just a couple of hits away from winning the game. It can’t happen like that all year," said center fielder B.J. Upton, who homered Tuesday. "A lot of people look at the Nationals in front of us. But there’s a lot of baseball to play. It’s no time to panic."
The Braves should still be confident with Ervin Santana (11-6, 3.69) taking the mound Wednesday.
He’s a posted a 2.60 ERA during a five-start home win streak, extending that run with a 7-6 victory over the Nationals on Friday. The right-hander was cruising through five scoreless innings with a seven-run lead before giving up four and leaving after the sixth.
Santana is 2-1 with a 2.38 ERA over his past three starts against the Dodgers, but he hasn’t faced them since a loss with the Angels on June 23, 2012.
Santana has been especially tough on Adrian Gonzalez, Juan Uribe and Matt Kemp, holding them to a combined 4 for 36 (.111).