In this Associated Press photo, Ryu Hyun-jin of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays in the top of the first inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida, on Sunday. (AP-Yonhap)
Pitching into the seventh inning for the third straight start wasn't enough for Ryu Hyun-jin to stop the Toronto Blue Jays' slide.
The South Korean left-hander settled for a no-decision after holding the Tampa Bay Rays to two runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida, on Sunday (local time). Ryu struck out seven and walked one, before leaving the game with two outs in the seventh and the score knotted at 2-2. His ERA rose slightly from 2.51 to 2.53, while his record stayed at 4-2.
Ryu made a season-high 107 pitches, 74 of them for strikes.
The Blue Jays took a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth on Randal Grichuk's two-run home run, but the bullpen served up four runs in the ninth for a 6-4 loss.
It was the Jays' fifth consecutive loss and the Rays' 10th straight victory.
Also in this game, Ryu faced Choi Ji-man, the Rays' South Korean first baseman and his fellow alum of Dongsan High School in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, for the first time.
Batting sixth, Choi grounded out to second in the top of the second inning but doubled off the left-center field wall in the fourth. It was the first extra-base hit given up by Ryu against a Korean hitter in the majors.
That double came with two outs and Mike Brosseau at first, and a textbook relay, from center fielder Jonathan Davis to shortstop Bo Bichette, got Brosseau out at home to end the inning.
In their final duel in the sixth, with runners at first and second, Ryu struck out Choi looking on a 2-2 fastball. At 91.6 mph, it was the hardest pitch Ryu threw in this game.
The Rays got to Ryu early in this one, with Randy Arozarena leading off the game with a double and then scoring on a two-out single by Manuel Margot.
The Blue Jays tied it in the bottom of the fourth, only to have the Rays reclaim the lead in the fifth, courtesy of a solo home run by Francisco Mejia.
The Blue Jays pulled even again in the same inning with Teoscar Hernandez's single but couldn't stake Ryu to a lead.
After striking out Choi to end the sixth, Ryu came back out for the seventh inning and was lifted with two outs and a runner at second, with Arozarena at the plate.
Rafael Dolis got Ryu off the hook by retiring the dangerous Rays leadoff man.
Relievers that followed Dolis weren't nearly as sharp. With a 4-2 lead, Tyler Chatwood began the ninth inning by walking Choi, who came around to score on a Brett Phillips single.
Travis Bergen came on with two outs and the bases loaded, and proceeded to issue three straight walks that put the Rays up 6-4.
This was Ryu's final start of the season at TD Ballpark, the Blue Jays' Single-A stadium that served as the big league club's temporary home. With the Canada-US border closed except for essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blue Jays, for the second straight season, aren't being allowed to play home games at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Starting in June, the Blue Jays will settle in at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York, originally their Triple-A home. The Jays played their home games there last season too. (Yonhap)