Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers picked up his 12th win of the Major League Baseball
(MLB) season on Sunday against the San Francisco Giants, holding the National League (NL) West rivals to three earned runs in six innings.
Ryu also struck out seven and walked one in his six frames to improve to 12-5 for the year, as the Dodgers beat the Giants 4-3.
His ERA went up slightly from 3.39 to 3.44.
Ryu is well ahead of the pace from his rookie season in 2013, when he didn't get his 12th win until Aug. 13. He ended last season at 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA.
With a dozen victories, Ryu sits just one win behind Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL lead. Ryu threw 103 pitches, 65 of them for strikes. For the year, he has 105 strikeouts in 117 2/3 innings.
With the win, the Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the Giants and improved to 59-47, best in the NL West. The Giants fell to 57-48, 1.5 games back of LA.
Ryu retired the first six batters he faced on just 17 pitches, but walked Dan Uggla to start the third inning. He struck out the next two batters before giving up two straight singles, the latter an infield hit by Hunter Pence that gave the Giants a 1-0 lead.
The Dodgers tied things up in the top fourth on Juan Uribe's RBI single.
In the bottom half of the inning, Brandon Crawford hit a two-out single to restore the Giants' one-run lead.
The Dodgers weren't going away, putting runners on second and third with one out. Adrian Gonzalez went down swinging on a pitch down in the dirt with two strikes, and when catcher Buster Posey threw to first to complete the strikeout, speedy Dee Gordon charged home from third to tie the game again.
Later in the same inning, Hanley Ramirez hit a go-ahead single, and Carl Crawford followed up with a triple that brought home Ramirez for a 4-2 lead for LA.
Ryu gave up a solo shot to Posey with two outs in the fifth but the Giants couldn't get any closer. Ryu retired the side in order in the sixth and handed things over to the bullpen to start the seventh.
J.P. Howell and Brian Wilson each worked a scoreless inning, and closer Kenley Jansen picked up his 30th save with a perfect ninth as he struck out the side.
After Sunday's win, Ryu improved to 8-2 in 11 road starts with a 2.89 ERA, compared with a 4-3 record at home in nine starts with a 4.13 ERA.
The pitcher said a new pitch in his arsenal helped him win his third straight start.
"My slider is now an essential pitch for me," Ryu said. "I put myself in position to win three starts in a row thanks to the slider. I think it is important for me to keep throwing that pitch with consistency."
Ryu said he first started throwing slider against the San Diego Padres on July 13, his final start before the All-Star break. He said he watched videos of his Cy Young Award-winning teammate Clayton Kershaw to figure out the grip and the arm angle.
Ryu added he's been able to throw his slider with enough speed and break to fool hitters, but insisted learning the pitch hasn't had any adverse effect on his arm.
He admitted he has paid so much attention to the slider recently that he hasn't been working as hard on his changeup, long his bread-and-butter pitch.
"I will start throwing it more during practice and will try to make it better for my next start," Ryu added. (Yonhap)