Hyun-jin Ryu was at his absolute best on Tuesday night, leading the Dodgers to a 3-0 win over the Angels in the second game of the Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium.
Ryu allowed just two hits and nothing else in his complete-game shutout, the first complete game of his career. The confident Ryu struck out seven, but even he was somewhat surprised by his performance.
"To be honest, I didn't think my first complete game and shutout would come this quickly," Ryu said.
It was the second shutout of the season for the Dodgers, and the first since Clayton Kershaw on opening day. The two-hitter for Ryu was the first by a Dodger since Kershaw turned the trick against the Tigers on June 20, 2011. It was the first shutout for a Korean-born pitcher since Chan Ho Park on June 2, 2006. The last Dodgers rookie to pitch a shutout in one of his first 11 games (this was start number 11 for Ryu) was Hideo Nomo on June 24, 1995, also in his 11th start.
Manager Don Mattingly said Ryu kept the powerful Angels lineup off balance all night.
"I think he's a guy whose change up is so good and his off speed is so good, an he uses it a lot, the way this guy works. Then all of a sudden he's throwing more fastballs but you have to think about it," Mattingly said. "It's in your head, you have to have the change up on your mind. We saw in the last inning, he went 93 to 75 mph.
"I like watching the guys who are really good. It's not just 'Here's 99, try and hit this,' it's more of an artist to me. Watching him throw to both sides of the plate, to be able to pitch inside, to use his change up, to use his curve ball at times. It's fun to watch because it's the art of pitching more than just a guy looking at radar guns."
Ryu even got into the act at the plate, with a double. It was the second double of the season for Ryu, who had apparently never swung a bat from high school eight years ago until this spring training with the Dodgers. Ryu is hitting .250 (6-for-24) on the season. With those two doubles, is a home run far behind?
"Nope. Not yet," Ryu said with a grin.
Ryu was supported by best buddy Luis Cruz, who hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning off Joe Blanton to break a scoreless tie. It was the first extra-base hit for Cruz, who has just nine hits in 79 at-bats (.114) this season.
"I'd like to thank him. His home run came at a key point in the middle of the game," Ryu said. "It actually motivated me and inspired me quite a bit."
Cruz, who started consecutive games for the first time since Apr. 20, has a modest three-game hitting streak, and has scored a run in each of those games as well. Not bad considering he wouldn't have started were it not for shortstop Nick Punto sitting with a bone bruise in his back.
"Cruz is getting an opportunity to play a little bit more. Even today, I would have had Nick in there if he was good," Mattingly said. "It was nice to see Luis take advantage of the opportunity. I know it's been frustrating year for him to this point, but there have been a lot of things that have been frustrating about this year to this point. It's a chance to put some things behind us, move forward, and see where we go."
The Freeway Series shifts to Anaheim on Wednesday, with Chris Capuano getting the start for the Dodgers. Jered Weaver, who missed over seven weeks with a fractured left elbow, returns to the Halos to start Wednesday night.
Home run: Luis Cruz (1)
WP - Hyun-jin Ryu (6-2): 9 IP, 2 hits, 7 strikeouts
LP - Joe Blanton (1-8): 7 IP, 7 hits, 3 runs, 5 strikeouts