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Ryu holds Choo hitless, earns win in S. Korean MLB showdown

Los Angeles Dodgers' pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin held Choo Shin-soo of the Cincinnati Reds hitless in three plate appearances en route to his ninth win on Saturday in the all-South Korean showdown in Major League Baseball (MLB).

At Dodger Stadium, Choo went 0-for-2 with a walk against Ryu in their first big league meeting. Ryu earned the ninth win of his rookie season by pitching seven strong innings, giving up only one earned run on two hits and a walk while striking out nine.

The Dodgers defeated the Reds 4-1 to improve to 55-48, extending their lead in the National League (NL) West over the Arizona Diamondbacks to 1 1/2 games. The Diamondbacks lost to the San Diego Padres 12-3. The Reds fell to 59-46 and remain five games behind the NL Central leaders, the St. Louis Cardinals, in third place.

Ryu improved to 9-3 with a 3.14 ERA and 105 strikeouts in a NL rookie-leading 129 innings. He threw 109 pitches against the Reds, 70 of them for strikes. He has pitched at least five innings in all of his 20 starts this season and hasn't lost at Dodger Stadium since April 2.

Ryu is 5-1 with a 1.83 ERA in 10 home starts, compared to a 4-2 record with a 4.62 ERA in 10 starts away from Los Angeles.

Choo, the leadoff man for the Reds, walked on five pitches to start the game and reached second on a sacrifice bunt by Chris Heisey. But Ryu retired Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips with groundouts to strand Choo.

In the third inning, Choo weakly grounded out to first with one out and no one on base. Leading off the sixth, Choo struck out swinging on a curveball in the dirt. Ryu was replaced by the pinch hitter Jerry Hairston in the bottom seventh.

In his final at-bat of the game, Choo hit a grounder to short against the Dodgers' closer Kenley Jansen. He finished the game 0-for-3 with a walk, and his average is now at .285 for the season.

Choo still leads all NL outfielders with 69 walks and a .419 on-base percentage.

It was the 15th South Korean pitcher-batter duel in MLB history, and the first since July 2010, when Choo, then playing for the Cleveland Indians, struck out swinging in his only at-bat against Park Chan-ho of the New York Yankees.

The Dodgers scored the first run in the bottom first on an RBI double by Hanley Ramirez. Jay Bruce tied the score for the Reds with a solo shot off Ryu in the top second. Then in the bottom fifth, Skip Schumaker belted a tie breaking two-run home run off the Reds' starter Bronson Arroyo to make it 3-1 for Los Angeles, and that proved to be more than enough run support for Ryu.

After giving up a triple to Heisey in the top third, Ryu retired 13 batters in a row before leaving the game after the top seventh. In that stretch, Ryu struck out seven and only one ball even left the infield.

The Dodgers made it 4-1 in the bottom seventh thanks to Adrian Gonzalez's single up the middle, and three relievers kept the door shut on the Reds to seal the victory.

After the game, Ryu admitted he was "quite nervous" to face Choo for the first time.

"I am pleased that I pitched well before a lot of Korean fans," he said. "I was feeling great from the start. I threw hard against Choo, who was the game's first hitter, and I was able to maintain the momentum for the whole game. I also kept my breaking pitches down in the zone, and it was a comfortable game for me."

A.J. Ellis, Ryu's catcher, said he noticed how intense Ryu was before the game.

"He was very serious before the game, very intense," Ellis said. "He's usually very quiet before he pitches, but more so today. I'm sure Choo was on his mind. I mean, it's a big deal. Choo is one of his best friends and one of his baseball idols. So with him facing him in America in an atmosphere like this and also playing in front of a huge TV audience back in Korea, it's pretty neat to know you're a part of that."

One of the hottest teams in baseball in July, the Dodgers have won eight of nine games since the All-Star break and 24 of their last 30 games overall.

The Reds will host the Dodgers from Sept. 6 to 8 for their second and final series in 2013. (Yonhap News)

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