By Jon Weisman
Gonna get the positive out of the way first, if you don’t mind.
Does Hyun-Jin Ryu get enough appreciation? He is just so solid and, it appears, almost completely unflappable.
After a first-inning double and a Carlos Triunfel error that put runners at the corners today, Ryu struck out Cleveland’s No. 4 and No. 5 hitters.
After a fourth-inning home run by Ryan Raburn gave the Indians a 2-0 lead that some fans no doubt thought was insurmountable, Ryu stranded runners in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
Ryu doesn’t always threaten to throw a perfect game the way he did on Memorial Day, but let’s talk consistency and minimizing damage. Since April 27, Ryu’s ERA has not gone below 3.00 or above 3.33.
Thanks largely to Ryu, the Dodgers were able to stay in today’s game long enough for a three-run rally in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead — a rally that was keyed by Ryu’s RBI double, the fourth straight hit by Dodger pitchers in the past 24 hours. Andre Ethier then had a clutch, 2-2 count, two-out, two-run single, Ethier’s third big hit in the past four games.
The Dodgers took that 3-2 lead into the eighth inning, after Ryu called it a day, having allowed seven hits and no walks in seven innings while striking out eight. Ryu helped the Dodgers tie the modern Major League mark of 36 consecutive games with two or fewer walks by their starting pitchers.
* * *
Unfortunately for Ryu and the Dodgers, Brian Wilson’s extended run of recently effective relief hit a speed bump — with the Indians tying the game in the eighth on two walks and a pinch-hit RBI single by David Murphy, then taking the lead on a two-run single by Mike Aviles — and the Dodgers lost their second straight game for the first time in three weeks, 5-4.
Wilson had been unscored upon in 18 of his past 19 apperances, with 13 hits and seven walks in 16 2/3 innings against 18 strikeouts and two inherited runners stranded. But he got in trouble with an early season bugaboo — walking the first two batters he faced.
[mlbvideo id=”34236477″ width=”400″ height=”224″ /]
Similarly, while Miguel Rojas had a dazzling spear of a line drive at third base (above) and right fielder Scott Van Slyke threw out a runner at home, this was more of an April game defensively for the Dodgers than what they’ve been producing lately. In addition to the aforementioned errors, Triunfel had a dropped throw on a stolen-base attempt and didn’t turn to catch a throw by Matt Kemp to third base in that troublesome top of the eighth (a throw that Kemp said afterward was his responsibility).
And still, the Dodgers nearly did pull this one out.
In the bottom of the eighth, Scott Van Slyke hit his seventh homer of the year — his first against a right-handed pitcher — to pull the Dodgers within a run. And then in the ninth, after pinch-hitter Hanley Ramirez walked with two out, Ethier worked the count from 0-2 to 3-2 before slicing another big hit, a double to left, sending Ramirez to third. (Note: The Dodgers were out of pinch-runners at this point, except for pitchers.)
Needing a single to tie or perhaps win the game, Kemp hit the ball hard, but it was flagged down on the warning track in right-center, and that was that.
“Obviously, you don’t want to not win,” Dodger manager Don Mattingly said, “but I’m not frustrated with our effort at all, and our energy.”