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Ryu Hyun-jin hurls two-hitter in win over Angels

Ryu Hyun-jin (Yonhap News)
Ryu Hyun-jin (Yonhap News)

South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers threw his first complete game shutout in his Major League Baseball (MLB) career on Tuesday.

At Dodger Stadium, Ryu gave up only two hits and struck out seven as the Dodgers (22-28) blanked the Los Angeles Angels (23-29) 3-0. He didn't walk a batter.

Ryu improved to 6-2 in his first big league season and lowered his ERA to 2.89. He has struck out 67 and walked 22 in 71 2/3 innings.

Ryu only allowed a single to Howie Kendrick in the second and a double to Chris Iannetta in the eighth. Between those two hits, the South Korean lefty retired 19 batters in a row.

Ryu threw 113 pitches, the second-highest total for him in 2013, and 79 of them went for strikes.

Ryu's six victories lead all rookies in the MLB this year.

The Dodgers went up 2-0 on a two-run home run by Luis Cruz.

A.J. Ellis drove in the third run for the Dodgers in the sixth, and that was more than enough help for Ryu on this day.

Ryu has made 11 starts this year and pitched six or more innings in 10 of them.

Ryu had struggled with the command of his fastball in previous outings but was in complete control with all of his pitches on Tuesday. He reached 153 kilometers per hour (95 miles per hour) with his fastball and effectively mixed in a changeup that traveled just about 120 km/h. He threw around 150 km/h in the eighth and ninth innings, too.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Ryu matched his season high with the average velocity of 147 km/h, and his changeup speed was a season-low 123 km/h. In Ryu's 10 previous starts, the average differential between the two pitches had been just about 16 km/h.

The Angels had eight right-handed batters to start the game against Ryu, but the pitcher pounded the outside corner against them and kept them off balance. The Angels didn't help themselves, swinging early in the count and grounding out weakly when they tried to pull outside pitches.

At the post-game press conference, Ryu said he didn't expect to record his first career shutout this early in the season and added his goal is to keep throwing scoreless innings.

"I always feel much more comfortable at home in LA than on the road," he said. "I was feeling great today, right from the warm-up."

Ryu said he was most pleased about not issuing any walks in the victory.

"After the seventh inning, I thought about going for the complete game shutout," he said. "I hadn't thrown that many pitches up to that point. It feels good to have accomplished the feat with such great teammates."

The Dodgers were one of the largest spenders in the offseason, shelling out big bucks to acquire Ryu and former Cy Young Award winner Zach Greinke, and yet they've been a major disappointment this season. Despite the shutout victory Tuesday, the Dodgers are still last in the National League West at 22-28.

Ryu and the team's No. 1 starter, Clayton Kershaw, have won half of those games together. Ryu said, though, he tries not to put too much pressure on himself.

"I just try to do my best and throw six or seven innings every time out," Ryu said. "I just hope that the team wins whenever I start."

For the Angels, former MVP Josh Hamilton missed the game with back spasms. Their big hitters, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo, were a combined 0-for-10 with one strikeout. Ryu later said shutting down these three hitters was the key to his success on Tuesday.

Ryu had a brief scare in the fourth inning when he took Trumbo's line drive off his left foot. He received some treatment in between innings and finished the game, and yet he limped into the interview room with his foot wrapped up. Ryu said, though, he didn't think he sustained any bone injury.

Ryu is the third South Korean native to throw a complete game shutout in the big leagues. Park Chan-ho, the first South Korean to pitch in the majors, had three shutouts in his 17-year big league career, two for the Dodgers and one for the San Diego Padres. Kim Sun-woo, who pitched in six big league seasons, had one shutout for the Colorado Rockies in 2005. 

Ryu had pitched the previous seven years for the Hanwha Eagles in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), the top South Korean league. He had been one of the KBO's most dominant pitchers before signing a six-year, US$36 million contract with the Dodgers last December.

Ryu is the first South Korean to jump directly from the KBO to the big leagues. (Yonhap News)

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