Eagles’ Ryu Hyun-jin in position for 1st KBO win since 2012

April 11, 2024

With his best outing of the young season Thursday, Hanwha Eagles starter Ryu Hyun-jin put himself in line for his first win in South Korea since 2012.

Ryu held the Doosan Bears to a hit over six shutout innings and struck out eight batters, and handed the reins to the bullpen to start the seventh inning with the Eagles up 2-0.

Ryu threw his season-high 94 pitches, 67 of them for strikes.

If the visiting Eagles hold on to win at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul, Ryu would earn his first victory in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) since Sept. 25, 2012.

Ryu entered this contest with a 0-2 record and an 8.36 ERA this year, with 23 hits surrendered in only 14 innings.

This is Ryu’s first season back in the KBO after 11 years away in Major League Baseball (MLB). Ryu first pitched for the Eagles from 2006 to 2012, reigning as one of the KBO’s most dominant starters. He then pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Toronto Blue Jays from 2013 to 2023.

Ryu, 37, signed an eight-year, 17 billion-won (US$12.5 million) contract to reunite with the Eagles in February. Though his return generated a ton of buzz during spring training, Ryu had not lived up to the hype in the regular season before pitching his first scoreless outing of the campaign Thursday.

The Eagles had dropped their season-high five straight games before Thursday.

The Eagles staked Ryu to a 1-0 lead after the top of the first inning, thanks to Roh Si-hwan’s RBI single off starter Brandon Waddell. It was the third time in four starts that Ryu pitched with a lead.

And Ryu made quick work of the Bears in the bottom first, retiring the side in order with 13 pitches. Ryu pitched around a two-out walk in the second inning and struck out two batters, both of them swinging at a changeup.

Ryu had another clean frame in the third, and he had two more strikeouts — this time freezing Jang Seung-hyun and Kim Tae-keun with fastballs.

Ryu’s teammates responded by adding another run in the top of the fourth. After Chae Eun-seong drew a leadoff walk, An Chi-hong brought him home with a towering double to left-center field for a 2-0 lead.

Ryu picked up two more strikeouts in the fourth inning, with Heo Kyoung-min and Kang Seung-ho whiffing at changeups.

Ryu retired the first two batters of the bottom fifth before the Bears got their first hit off Ryu, courtesy of third-string catcher Kim Ki-yeon. Kim had replaced Jang Seung-hyun in the top fifth after Jang suffered a bruise on his right calf when he was struck by an errant pitch off the body of an opposing batter.

Ryu shook off the hit by striking out Kim Dae-han swinging on a 0-2 fastball.

Ryu came back out for the sixth inning and promptly got Kim Tae-keun to fly out to center.

Ryu then got into his only jam of the evening.

He induced a routine fly ball off the bat of Heo Kyoung-min, but right fielder Yonathan Perlaza dropped the ball after it hit the heel of his glove.

With Yang Eui-ji at the plate, Ryu threw a wild pitch to push Heo to second base, the first Bears runner in scoring position against Ryu.

The left-hander dug deep and retired Yang on a fly to right, with Perlaza making a clean grab this time.

Cleanup Kim Jae-hwan also flied out to Perlaza on Ryu’s 94th pitch of the game.