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Dodgers Need Hyun-Jin Ryu More Than Ever Before

Evan Budrovich |
October 6, 2013 | 11:51 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Los Angeles's first home playoff game since 2009. (Wikimedia Commons)
Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Los Angeles's first home playoff game since 2009. (Wikimedia Commons)
When the Dodgers signed Hyun-Jin Ryu for six years and $36 million this past offseason, ownership all across the board recognized the skill set the 26-year-old lefty brings to the table.

Now facing his most important start of the season, the Dodgers consistent ace showcases no fear facing the bright lights of playoff baseball with his team desperate to take a 2-1 series lead at home.

“Hyun-Jin is a guy that's a rookie, but has really pitched a lot of baseball professionally, just not here," Mattingly told the media Saturday, in preparation for Sunday night’s Game 3. "So he's an older-type rookie. I'm hoping he'll react good. You don't know how anybody is going to react, but I feel like [all our rookies] will react good, and I look forward to watching it."

Dating back to his first day in the big leagues, the Dodgers' third horse in the top-heavy rotation has never backed down from the biggest challenge. Starting against the defending World Series champion Giants to kick off the season, Ryu notched 6.1 IP, allowing only 1 ER and sprinkling 10 singles on the score sheet.

That start showcased his ability to pitch in and out of trouble all year long while making it look smooth. Ryu came out firing to start the season, throwing at least six innings in each of his first eight starts of his MLB career just as the team was stumbling out of the gate.

SEE MORE: Kershaw, Dodgers Ride Wave Of Whiffs To Game One Win

The deal came on the heels of the Dodgers reaching a six-year, $147 million agreement with Zack Greinke and committing $98 million for eight starting pitchers in 2013, five of which remain on the playoff roster. After watching their two-headed duo split the opening set in Atlanta, the back-end of the Dodgers' rotation will be put to the test for the remainder of this series.

While the Dodgers have not ruled out the possibility of pitching Clayton Kershaw on short rest for Game 4, Ryu could at least guarantee a trip back to Atlanta for a possible win-or-go home matchup. For Ryu, who normally never throws a bullpen session between starts, the extra time off since his last start on September 28th could be a blessing in disguise for the young grinder of a pitcher.

Entrenched in a major battle for most of the second half of the season, climbing back from a double-digit game deficit from the beginning of June, the Dodgers certainly have been playing with their backs against the wall all season long and have relied upon the healthy Ryu in their winning surge.

While Kershaw and Greinke (31 combined wins) have done their fair share, Ryu (14-8 3.00 ERA) has been equally successful, finishing inside the top-ten in total ERA for the National League. Ryu has posted 22 quality starts this season which ranks tops for all NL rookies. He is also plenty experienced overseas and in the WBC, accomplished the vital six-inning task for an incredible 73% of his starts.

Looking forward to Game 3, the 26-year old has fared quite nicely against Atlanta this season and should be firing his arsenal of pitches with confidence. In two starts against the Braves, Ryu has only allowed 3 ER in 12.2 IP while dominating the Braves for 7.2 IP back on June 7th over at Chavez Ravine.

SEE MORE: 2013 NLDS Preview: Dodgers vs. Braves

This dominant display, which was only Yasiel Puig’s fifth game, Ryu utilized his change-up and slider at an incredible rate recording six strikeouts and 11 groundball outs from Brave hitters.

The Dodgers' southpaw, who actually fares better against right-handed hitters this season, has not only come up clutch this season but also throughout his entire career. He earned the win in Korea's gold medal-clinching victory at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and went 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA for the second-place Korean squad at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

The only sign for concern may be the Dodgers' defense, which finished with the second-most errors in the National League and were near the bottom overall in almost every defensive category. Thanks to an improved lineup featuring Hanley Ramirez, Juan Uribe and Mark Ellis providing consistency at their respected positions, the Dodgers' defense has been amongst the best in September especially through two games this postseason.

Facing Atlanta's rising sensation, Julio Teheran (14-8, 3.20 ERA, 170 K), the Dodgers will need Ryu to continue boasting similar numbers to his dominant home splits (7-3 2.32) this season from the friendly confines at the amped Chavez Ravine, which hosts its first playoff tilt since Game 2 of the 2009 NLCS.  

Reach Staff Writer Evan Budrovich here. Follow him on Twitter.



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