Hyun-jin Ryu said just before the regular season began that he added the National League Rookie of the Year award to his list of goals for 2013. If he continues pitching like he has in his first two starts, he'll probably get it, though Ryu is no ordinary rookie.
"He doesn't lose his composure. He doesn't get rattled. This is not a young kind out there. This guy has thrown big innings, he has been in competitions around the world, including the Olympics and the WBC," said manager Don Mattingly. "This isn't a kid from the minor leagues, we feel we're getting a polished guy out there."
That polish helped Ryu endure a two-run home run in the first inning on Sunday, a pitch to Andrew McCutchen that Ryu said was simply "in the wrong place at the wrong time." But Ryu recovered and threw nearly the remainder of his 101 pitches in the right place, and under control.
"To me he seems to be better when he's 88 to 91 mph. In that range he seems to locate at those speeds, and the ball comes out cleaner," Mattingly said. "When he tries to throw harder I'm seeing him up in the zone more and it seems like he's missing his spots more.
"When you've got a change up, it makes 91 look a lot harder. When you've got that kind of change up guys have to respect that, then 91 will jump on them. When you have that weapon, the change up, it just adds to your fastball. I'm not worried about the velocity, I'm more worried about the location with him, and him staying under control and throwing the ball where he wants."
Throwing the ball where he wanted, Ryu struck out six and pitched into the seventh inning. Number 99 earned his 99th professional victory, but his first in Major League Baseball, which was good for Ryu back home.
"I made some promises to some people back in Korea that I would get my first win today, and I'm just happy I kept my promise," Ryu said.
The Dodgers starting pitching has been so good this week that when Ryu walked two on Sunday it was news. That matched the walk total of the starters through the first five games, and was two more than Ryu had in his first start, on Tuesday.
"I was really trying to go for the corners today, and when I missed my spot it was off the plate," said Ryu.
The Dodgers have allowed just 10 runs in their six games, and really can't ask for much better pitching than they got this week.
"You start looking at Kersh and Greinke, and what we've seen from Hyun-jin, and Josh. These guys are going to keep us in a ton of games," Mattingly said. "Are they going to go seven or eight innings every game? No, but I do expect us to pitch well every time out. With our starters you're going to get a game that the guy is going to keep you in it. There aren't going to be many duds."
The Dodgers are off Monday, their third off day in a nine-day span after the Freeway Series. They open a three-game series in San Diego against the Padres on Tuesday, with Josh Beckett facing off with Clayton Richard in the opener. Tuesday is the Padres' home opener, and starts at the weirdo San Diego time of 3:40 p.m. PDT.