Hyun-Jin Ryu lasted just three innings in his first postseason start. For an encore, he outdueled Adam Wainwright.
Ryu pitched seven scoreless innings, and Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez got to Wainwright with extra-base hits that drove in runs. As a result, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0 at Dodger Stadium to score a much-needed win in Game 3 of the NLCS.
The series is now 2-1 in favor of the Cards.
Taking the mound for the first time since a dreadful NLDS outing against the Atlanta Braves, Ryu was in command of his entire repertoire on Monday. He retired 12 of the first 13 Cardinals batters he faced, controlling both sides of the plate and forcing a series of weak pop flies and groundouts.
Ryu got into trouble only twice, in the fifth and seventh, but he managed to work his way out of both jams. He got Jon Jay to fly into a critical double-play with the Cardinals having runners on first and second with zero outs in the fifth, as pinch runner Daniel Descalso made a critical baserunning error to get doubled off. Two innings later, a visit from manager Don Mattingly calmed down an obviously tiring Ryu enough to get him through the inning.
The 26-year-old southpaw left the game on 108 pitches and allowed only three hits. He walked one batter and struck out four.
That level of excellence was needed to defeat Wainwright, who was at the top of his game for the third time this postseason.
Well, with one notable exception.
The fourth inning wound up being Wainwright and the Cardinals' downfall. Mark Ellis started the inning with a leadoff double, Gonzalez followed up with an RBI two-bagger of his own with one out, and Puig gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead with a run-scoring triple that nearly went over the right-field fence.
That triple might be the spark Puig needs to break out of his slump. He had gone hitless and struck out seven times in his first 11 at-bats against Cardinals pitching before that huge fourth-inning hit. The oft-discussed outfielder went 2-for-3 against Wainwright on Monday, connecting off the barrel of his bat on both hits.
Following the game, Carlos Beltran commented on Puig's actions at the plate, courtesy of ESPN's Jayson Stark and the Associated Press:
Beltran, the Cardinals' All-Star right fielder, clearly was annoyed by Puig's antics.
"As a player, I just think he doesn't know [about how to act]," Beltran said. "That's what I think. He really doesn't know. He must think that he's still playing somewhere else.
"He has a lot of passion, no doubt about that -- great ability, great talent. I think with time, he'll learn that you've got to act with a little bit more calm."
"When you try to do those things sometimes, you know, you get that attention," Beltran said. "And you don't want to wake up nobody. I always thought if you hit a home run off a pitcher, you've got to make him believe he made a mistake. You don't wake him up. Or next time, the pitcher's going to be more focused with you and he's going to try harder to get you out.
"So he will learn. I don't think he's a bad kid. I just think he doesn't know right now."
Wainwright also spoke on Puig and Gonzalez's actions, courtesy of CBS Sports' Scott Miller:
The Cardinals appreciated neither that, nor Gonzalez's exuberance when he doubled in Ellis with the first run of the inning. Wainwright later accused Gonzalez of performing some "Mickey Mouse" antics at second base -- body language, and shouting. When that was relayed to him, Gonzalez grinned broadly and said, "We are in LA, so the Mickey Mouse stuff does go."
"Is that anything new?" Wainwright asked of Puig. "On the tape, you can see he pimps all the time."
But that fourth inning was the only blemish in an otherwise stellar outing for Wainwright. The Cardinals ace immediately righted the ship, allowing only two more hits over his next three innings of work. While Wainwright wasn't able to go the distance like he did to clinch the NLDS for the Cards over the Pittsburgh Pirates, he allowed only two runs over seven innings, striking out five.
It wasn't until Wainwright left the game that the Dodgers bats reawakened. Relievers Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness combined to allow three consecutive hits to Carl Crawford, Mark Ellis and Hanley Ramirez with one out in the eighth inning, with Ramirez's single bringing in Crawford on a controversial call at the plate.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny came out to argue that Yadier Molina had the plate blocked, but replays showed that Crawford just got around the tag. Ramirez's RBI gave Los Angeles a 3-0 lead heading into the ninth. That was more than enough for closer Kenley Jansen, who recorded three straight outs to finish off the contest.
Ramirez played despite a rib injury that caused him to miss Game 2. Catcher A.J. Ellis spoke to ESPN's Tim Kurkjian after the game, commenting on the toughness necessary to battle through the injury:
St. Louis may be dealing with its own injury problem for the remainder of the series. Third baseman David Freese left in the fifth inning with a calf injury, and his status going forward is uncertain.
The two sides will be back at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night, where Ricky Nolasco will likely attempt to tie the series against Cardinals starter Lance Lynn.
Nolasco is yet to pitch in the playoffs after yielding his Game 4 start in the NLDS to Clayton Kershaw. Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today reported earlier Monday that Mattingly was considering going with Zack Greinke should the Dodgers fall behind 3-0 in the series, but the Dodgers skipper indicated his stance has changed with the series at 2-1:
Lynn will start in Game 4 after pitching two scoreless innings of relief in Game 1 and getting the win. He was shelled in his only postseason start, giving up five runs in 4.1 innings of work against the Pirates in Game 2 of the NLDS.
With the way this series is going, though, it's hard to expect anything less than a pitchers' duel.
Player of the Game: Hyun-Jin Ryu (SP, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Historians aren't going to have a tough time figuring out what defined this series. Three games into the NLCS, and the winning team has scored three or fewer runs in each contest. In two consecutive nights, the door was shut on a powerful lineup due to a sensational outing from a rookie starter.
Game 2 saw Michael Wacha do it for the Cardinals. In Game 3, it was Ryu's turn.
The Ryu the Cardinals saw on Monday was the polar opposite of the pitcher the Braves hammered in the Division Series. He was smart with his pitch placement, didn't hang his offspeed efforts and looked far more confident than at any point against Atlanta.
In 14 innings of work against St. Louis (two starts) this season, Ryu has yet to give up an earned run and has only allowed eight hits.
Should this series make it to six or seven games, it's probable that Ryu will get the ball for one of those games. Following Monday night, Dodgers fans can rest easier knowing the rookie from South Korea has what it takes to shut down the vaunted St. Louis offense.
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