Quality start not enough for Ryu Hyun-jin as toothless Blue Jays drop crucial game

September 13, 2023

For the second straight outing, Toronto Blue Jays starter Ryu Hyun-jin did his part to keep his team in the game.

But once again, Ryu’s teammates didn’t hold up their end of the bargain with their bats.

Ryu allowed three runs on five hits in his season-high six innings against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday (local time) at Rogers Centre in Toronto, but he left the game with the Blue Jays trailing 3-0. The Rangers went to win 6-3.

It was Ryu’s first quality start — an outing in which a starter allows no more than three earned runs over at least six innings — since he returned from Tommy John surgery on Aug. 1. Ryu had pitched into the sixth inning on two previous occasions this year but hadn’t completed that frame until this game.

However, the Blue Jays did nothing against Rangers starter Max Scherzer, who allowed only three hits in 5 1/3 innings before leaving the game with some triceps problems. And the Blue Jays mustered only three runs against a typically shaky Rangers bullpen, as they lost their second straight game in this crucial four-game series at home.

In Ryu’s previous start last Wednesday against the lowly Oakland Athletics, the Blue Jays had managed just two runs while batting 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Against the Rangers, the Blue Jays were 1-for-6 in that situation, while the Rangers were 4-for-9.

Two of the Blue Jays’ best hitters, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., have gone a combined 0-for-16 in the past two games.

On the mound, Ryu cruised through the first three innings. He pitched around a two-out walk in the top of the first, and retired the side in order on a groundout and two flyouts in the second inning.

Ryu picked up his first strikeout of the game in the third inning against Jonathan Ornelas in a vintage Ryu pitch sequence. At 2-1 count, Ryu got the rookie to whiff on a 78.4 miles per hour (mph) changeup. He then froze him with an 89.9 mph fastball on the inside corner.

The big blow against Ryu came in the fourth inning, when Corey Seager led off with a single and Robbie Grossman followed up with a two-run home run. Both hitters jumped on first-pitch cutters.

Ryu gave up a single later in the inning, before striking out Nathaniel Lowe on a 62.6 mph curveball — the slowest pitch he threw in this game.

He pitched a clean fifth inning, needing only nine pitches to retire three straight batters.

And with his pitch count at an efficient 62 through five, Ryu came back out for the sixth.

Seager greeted him with a double and later came around to score on Jonah Heim’s sacrifice fly that put the Rangers ahead 3-0.

The Blue Jays bullpen coughed up two runs in the top seventh and one more in the top ninth. Though the Blue Jays responded with a pair of runs in the bottom seventh and another in the ninth, it wasn’t nearly enough to turn the tide.

Long balls have become a source of concern for Ryu. He has now surrendered five home runs over his past four starts covering 21 innings, after keeping the opponents in the park for his previous 14 innings.

Now eight starts into his comeback from Tommy John surgery, Ryu saw his fastball velocity tick up slightly. He averaged 88.9 mph with his four-seamer Tuesday, compared with his season average of 88.4 mph.

His looping curveball remained effective as well. He threw 16 curveballs, hitting as low as 62.5 mph on the radar gun. He tossed four of those curves for a strike and induced two whiffs.