Dodgers vs. Braves NLDS Game 3 preview: Battle of rookies Hyun-jin Ryu, Julio Teheran

Harry How

Ryu has eight walks in his last 11 starts to go along with a 2.57 ERA. Teheran had 16 strikeouts and no walks in his final three starts for Atlanta.

LOS ANGELES -- The once best-of-five and now best-of-three National League Division Series between the Dodgers and Braves moves to Dodger Stadium for Game 3, and Sunday night will feature a battle of rookie pitchers in Hyun-jin Ryu and Julio Teheran.

The last battle of rookie starting pitchers in a postseason game was in Game 4 of the 2007 NLCS, when Micah Owings and the Diamondbacks faced Franklin Morales and the Rockies.

But the 26-year-old Ryu, a seven-time All-Star in the Korean Baseball Organization, is a different sort of rookie than the 22-year-old Teheran.

"He's been pitching big all year long. Every time we've had a big game or a big situation for him, he's pitched well," manager Don Mattingly said. "He's not really a rookie. He's pitched a lot of big games."

Ryu was 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts this season, and was tied for eighth in the National League with 22 quality starts, including 14 at home in 15 Dodger Stadium starts.

"I can't really say how big of a game how big of a game tomorrow is, compared to my other big games," Ryu said through interpreter Martin Kim on Saturday. "But obviously considering my major league status it is a very important game for me."

It's a big game for the Dodgers as well, who obviously don't want to trail in the series or find themselves one game from elimination. Ryu downplayed his popularity in South Korea - when asked which athletes in his country were more famous than him Ryu replied, "A lot." - but the left-hander will have an entire country watching him on Sunday night, and he knows it.

"It's a huge motivation to know that an entire country will be watching the game," Ryu said. "But equally important are the fans here at Dodger Stadium and the Korean community. I understand a lot of them will be coming out tomorrow. It's a big encouragement for me."

Ryu has faced the Braves twice this season, and walked five in five innings in Atlanta, but only allowed one walk and one run while pitching into the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium.

A key will be the first inning for Ryu, which has been has worst inning all season. He has allowed 17 runs in the opening frame in 30 starts, a 5.10 ERA. He has allowed runs in the first inning in four of his last six starts. His ERA in all other innings but the first is 2.61.

"It's funny but I never try to give up runs in the first inning. It's just the way it happens, it's out of my control," Ryu said. "I will be a little extra nervous tomorrow because it is the postseason but as I do every game I take the mound trying to win and do the best I can."

For Teheran, Sunday will be his first career start against the Dodgers, and his first postseason appearance.

"I feel really excited about this game," Teheran said. "I'm just trying to calm down, focus on the game and do the same thing I've been doing."

Teheran was 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA in 30 starts, with 170 strikeouts and 45 walks in 185⅔ innings. He views this as another opportunity to showdown with a fellow rookie, like on Aug. 30 when he out-dueled NL Rookie of the Year favorite Jose Fernandez of the Marlins in a 2-1 win.

"I feel the same thing that I felt facing Fernandez. We were competing for Rookie of the Year, and I feel the same thing [Sunday]," Teheran said. "I know everyone will be watching us, and will just try to do my thing."

The pitch arsenal for Teheran is mostly fastball, slider and curve, though he'll mix in a changeup at times (5.3% this season per FanGraphs). His two-seam fastball has become a bigger part of his repertoire in 2013.

"I started using my two-seamer last offseason. I wanted something different, something I can make the hitters think more and start using all my stuff."

Mixing up his pitches has also been a great strength for Ryu.

"He locates with the fastball to both sides of the plate, and can go up and down. He's got a good changeup that can go to either side. When his breaking ball is good he's really at another level," Mattingly said. "He's able to exploit anyone we want. If he needs to get a ball at a certain side of the plate, he can do it. That's the key to pitching, being able to change speeds, locate, and use both sides of the plate."

Game info

Time: 5:07 p.m.

TV: TBS

MLB Gameday

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