Two South Korean pitchers in the majors, Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oh Seung-hwan of the Colorado Rockies, both enjoyed strong regular seasons for their National League West clubs in 2018, with some playoff baseball on the horizon for both in October.
In the final year of his six-year, $36 million contract, the 31-year-old Ryu enjoyed by far his best season -- remarkable not just because of his impressive numbers, but also because of an injury history that includes shoulder and elbow surgeries that limited him to one start from 2015 to 2016.
Ryu went 7-3 with a 1.97 ERA in 15 starts spanning 82 1/3 innings, while striking out 89 and walking 15. The left-hander posted his best strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.93) and strikeout-per-nine innings ratio (9.7).
Ryu didn't pitch enough innings to qualify for the ERA title because he missed three months of action with a groin injury sustained in early May. He had a 2.12 ERA at the time.
Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers (AP)
And he returned with a bang on Aug. 15, shutting down the San Francisco Giants for six innings of three-hit ball. He never allowed more than three earned runs in any of his starts this year.
Ryu was the Dodgers' best pitcher in September as they clinched their sixth consecutive postseason berth. Ryu went 3-2 with a 1.50 ERA in five September starts and held opponents to just one earned run over his final three starts -- a stretch of 19 innings.
Ryu is all but assured of a spot in the postseason rotation, which would throw him into the October cauldron for the first time since 2014.
Last fall, Ryu watched as his teammates reached the World Series and lost to the Houston Astros in seven games. With a career postseason record of 1-0 and a 2.81 ERA in three starts, Ryu will need to recapture some of that old magic to take the Dodgers back to the grand stage.
Oh began the 2018 season with the Toronto Blue Jays after spending the past two years with the St. Louis Cardinals. The 36-year-old with substantial closing experience in South Korea and Japan was also the closer with the Cards for parts of his two seasons there. He served in the setup role for the Jays until they traded him to the Rockies in July to start rebuilding with younger arms in the fold.
Oh Seung-hwan of the Colorado Rockies throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals in the top of the eighth inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at Coors Field in Denver on Sept. 30. (AP)
Oh had a 2.68 ERA in 48 appearances for Toronto, along with a 4-3 record and two saves. And the right-hander kept on rolling with the Rockies, going 2-0 with a save and a 2.53 ERA in 25 games. HIs 73 appearances put him in a tie for 11th place in the majors, and he could have had more games under his belt if not for a left hamstring injury that sidelined him in mid September.
He signed a one-year deal with the Jays in February worth $1.75 million, and a $2.5 million vesting club option for next year kicked in because he pitched more than 70 games this year.
Oh retired the only batter he faced against the Washington Nationals at Coors Field in Denver on Sunday (local time) and helped the Rockies to a 12-0 win.
That victory followed the Dodgers' 15-0 rout of the Giants earlier in the day. The two NL West rivals ended the 162-game scheduled deadlocked at 91-71 and will play a tiebreaker game on Monday at Dodger Stadium.
The winner will take the NL West crown and advance to the NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves. The loser will go to the wild card game, with the opponent being the loser of another tiebreaker game on Monday -- that between the NL Central foes Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers.
If Oh makes the postseason roster as expected, he will become the first South Korean player to appear in playoffs in South Korea, Japan and the US
The last time two South Korean players were in the same postseason was 2013, when Ryu pitched for the Dodgers in the NLDS and NL Championship Series and outfielder Choo Shin-soo played for the Cincinnati Reds in the wild card game. (Yonhap)