Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ryu shines, and the bullpen barely holds on

Hyun-Jin Ryu could do no wrong on Saturday night in Arizona, pitching six strong innings and gathering three hits at the plate.  The bullpen nearly handed it all away the final three innings, but did just enough to cling to victory, 7-5.  The win creates a three-way tie for second in the NL West at 7-4, a half game behind the Giants.

Not much happened in the opening third of the game, aside from the Dodgers blowing two men on in the second and third, including a double by Ryu for his first big league hit.  It sure looked like more of the same for a team that came into this one averaging 2.7 runs/game through the first 10.

Adrian Gonzalez got the scoring going in the fourth, launching a leadoff homer.  His 3-for-4 night increased his numbers to .375 with 2 homers and 10 RBIs.  Most importantly, he looks like he's fresh and swinging a good bat, in addition to the usual slick defense he plays.

After Ryu stranded a couple in the fourth by striking out Josh Wilson, the Dodgers tacked on a couple in the fifth.  Once again, Ryu was a part of it, singling to start the inning.  Carl Crawford forced Ryu at second on a grounder, but Skip Schumaker's RBI double made it 2-0. 

Schumaker went to third on a wild pitch, setting things up perfectly for Matt Kemp.  But, Kemp struck out, continuing his slump.  Gonzalez was given the intentional pass to pitch to Andre Ethier, who made Ian Kennedy pay with an RBI single, and it was 3-0.

The Diamondbacks grabbed one back in the bottom of the frame on an RBI single from A.J. Pollock.  The Dodgers responded by finally getting some big hits with two outs in the sixth.  The bases were loaded on a single by Ryu, a double by Crawford, and a walk to Schumaker.  Kemp kept things simple with a solid two-run single into left, doubling his RBI total on the season to four.  He's still only hitting .190, but hits like this will only help to get him going again.

Gonzalez added another RBI with a single off of Mark Reynolds to make it 6-1.

The Dodgers were in full control at this point, but things started to take a turn for the worse in the seventh.  With two outs and Justin Sellers on first, Ryu had a chance for a perfect 4-for-4 night.  But, it wasn't meant to be as Sellers was foolishly picked off first by catcher Miguel Montero for the final out.  That was a bad omen.

Even with a pitch count hovering around 100, Don Mattingly allowed Ryu to begin the bottom of the seventh.  Alfredo Marte and Wilson both singled, which brought the hook.  The unpredictable Ronald Belisario came in, and because he has so much movement on his pitches, it's hard to know what to expect from him.

Well, it wasn't exactly pretty.  It started off well, though, as Chad Pennington struck out looking, then got ejected for arguing.  Eric Hinske and Eric Chavez both hit pinch-hit RBI singles, and the DBacks were back in business at 6-3.  Belisario did get Gerardo Parra to ground into the inning ending DP, which turned out to be huge.

Kenley Jansen pitched the eighth, and like Belisario, it was a bumpy ride.  Martin Prado greeted him with a laser out to left to make it 6-4.  With two outs and Montero on first from a single, Aaron Hill pinch-hit and smoked an RBI double, just barely missing a homer to tie the game.  Cody Ross struck out looking to end the inning.

The Dodgers got the all important insurance run in the ninth.  With one out, Ethier doubled off of Tony Sipp.  Heath Bell came in, and Ramon Hernandez lined an RBI double that just managed to stay fair down the right field line, and it was now 7-5.

Maybe that run took the air out of the DBacks' balloon, or maybe the Dodgers finally quit messing around, as Brandon League got his fourth save with a perfect ninth.

The star of the show was obviously Ryu, even though that was almost forgotten if the DBacks completed the late comeback.  Ryu lasted six-plus innings for six hits, three runs, one walk, and nine strikeouts.  The win ups his record to 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.  It's also his 100th professional victory after winning 98 in Korea. 

Oh by the way, his 3-for-3 performance at the plate raises his average to .429, his slugging to .571, and his OPS to 1.000.  Bat him cleanup!  He's already come a long way since getting booed in his first start at home for not running out a grounder.

The offense put up a season-high seven runs, mostly due to four RBIs with two outs.  They also went 5-for-15 with runners in scoring position, which looked a lot worse in the first few innings.  Thankfully they turned it on after that.  Getting Crawford back atop the order helped, as he had two hits and two runs.  Give Schumaker credit as well for getting on base three times in the #2 spot, scoring twice.

The bullpen has had a rough couple of games, with the biggest issue not stranding inherited runners.  Shawn Tolleson walked home two straight runs on Friday, and Belisario gave up two more in this one.  To be fair, they all started off the year red hot, so any runs given up now looks worse than it probably is.  Clayton Kershaw and Ryu were the ones to put runners on in the first place, so you can't always expect perfection from the 'pen.

The Dodgers will look to win their third straight series on Sunday as they send Josh Beckett to the mound.  He's looking for his first good start after a couple of so-so ones.  Trevor Cahill will look to do the same for the DBacks.

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