Ryu makes strong case for No. 3 starter in playoffs
SAN FRANCISCO – Don Mattingly is doing his best to avoid the subject, but if there was any doubt about the Dodgers' No. 3 starter in the playoffs – and frankly, there shouldn't be – it was put to rest Tuesday night.
It's going to be Hyun-Jin Ryu. End of discussion.
Mattingly, the Dodgers manager, insists there have been no talks about the team's playoff rotation, but Ryu made his case again in a 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Regardless of which team the Dodgers face, he'll be their starter behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
"We haven't made any decision on who it's going to be, but I've always been comfortable with Hyun-Jin and the way he pitches," Mattingly said. "I don't think we've had any question marks. The biggest thing we've tried to do in the second half is get him plenty of rest, and we've been able to spread him out pretty good."
Ryu's rookie season -- after seven years pitching in his native Korea -- has been nothing short of impressive. Despite a 1-4 record in his previous five starts, he now has 14 wins and a 2.97 ERA. Tuesday, he gave up four hits and one run in seven innings, which came on the heels of a eight-inning, two-hit complete-game victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks last week.
He had seven days off between starts, which he said was a welcome break. He also said his first season in the big leagues has been better than he thought.
"It's surpassed my initial expectations," he said through a translator. "Not that I thought it was going to be easy, but it was much better than I thought. It's a good thing."
A very good thing. Ryu has been the Dodgers' No. 3 starter all season, but a surge by new addition Ricky Nolasco seemed to put the postseason rotation in question. That shouldn't be a concern any longer, despite Mattingly's insistence on playing his cards close to the vest.
"It's just something we're not willing to talk about yet," he said. "We're just not willing to say who or where or why, and honestly we haven't had enough discussions where everybody's involved."
Even so, before the game, he said of Ryu, "I think we're pretty confident. He's pitched good all year long, and there's no reason to think he's not going to continue to pitch good. It seems like he's ready for every game."
So, apparently, is Matt Kemp, who hit his first home run since July 21 and was 2 for 4.
"It felt good," Kemp said. "Any time you hit a home run, it's always an ah-ha feeling. I felt good about my approach."
So do the Dodgers, especially with Andre Ethier not ready to come back from a sore left ankle. Ethier had been expected to play Tuesday, but a pregame workout wasn't what the Dodgers were hoping for, so he sat.
A resurgent Kemp would still give the Dodgers three strong outfielders with Carl Crawford and rookie Yasiel Puig, whose homer in the fifth gave them a 1-0 lead.
But is Kemp all the way back? Maybe not quite.
"He's Matt Kemp," Mattingly said. "We saw him a couple of years ago when a lot of people looked at him as the best player in the game, or one of them. Until he got hurt last year, early on, we were seeing a lot of the same thing.
"So is he back to that, feeling comfortable and confident? I don't know about that, but to get a healthy Matt Kemp back to where we can play him every day would be a nice thing for us."
He might not be there yet, but Tuesday was a big step forward.
As for Ryu, there's little doubt he’s going to play a major role when the playoffs begin next week.
"I get excited thinking about it," he said. "High anticipation. I don't think it will be too different from the big stages I've set foot on (internationally), but for me, I'm just excited. I hope we can win."