Ryu Hyun-jin headed to open market as Dodgers’ season ends in stunning fashion

October 10, 2019
경기 지켜보는 류현진 (로스앤젤레스=연합뉴스)

경기 지켜보는 류현진 (로스앤젤레스=연합뉴스)

The Dodgers were eliminated in the National League Division Series (NLDS) by the Washington Nationals, losing 7-3 in a stunning Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers were up 3-0 through five innings in Game 5, but the Nationals got a run back in the sixth and then Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto launched back-to-back solo shots off Clayton Kershaw in the top eighth to tie things up at 3-3.

Howie Kendrick blew it wide open for the Nationals with a grand slam in the top of the 10th off Joe Kelly, and the Nationals held on to knock off the team with the best regular season record in the NL.

“Everybody played hard and tried to win this game,” the somber Ryu said afterward. “We had a great regular season, but things didn’t go our way in the end. I am sure everyone here feels the same way.”

Ryu was the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the series, when he gave up two earned runs in five innings as the Dodgers rallied to win 10-4. He had volunteered to pitch in relief in Game 5 if need be, though manager Dave Roberts shelved the plan and hoped to have Ryu start Game 1 of the NL Championship Series on Friday if the Dodgers advanced.

Instead, Ryu may have pitched his last game for the Dodgers, a team he joined from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) in December 2012. He signed a six-year, US$36 million contract to become the first Korean player to make the jump from the KBO to MLB.

Ryu finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2013, after going 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA. He also won 14 games in 2014, while his ERA rose slightly to 3.38.

But the left-hander missed the entire 2015 season following shoulder surgery. He made one start in July 2016 but was shut down with elbow issues.

Ryu returned to the rotation full-time in 2017, but only went 5-9 with a 3.77 ERA and was left off the Dodgers’ postseason roster as they made a run to the World Series.

He made only 15 starts in 2018 due to assorted injuries but posted an excellent 1.97 ERA with a 7-3 record. Ryu was eligible for free agency for the first time last winter, but instead of testing the open market, he accepted the Dodgers’ one-year qualifying offer of $17.9 million.

And Ryu put together his best season in the majors in 2019, leading all qualified pitchers with a 2.32 ERA and matching his career high with 14 wins. Ryu was the Dodgers’ Opening Day starter and also the NL starter for the All-Star Game. He earned the NL Pitcher of the Month award for May.

Ryu issued the fewest walks among all qualified starters with 24 and had the lowest walks per nine innings in baseball with 1.23. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.50 places him second in the NL.

And Ryu stayed relatively healthy to throw 182 2/3 innings over 29 starts, both of them his highest totals since his rookie year. Ryu even smacked his first career home run on Sept. 22 against the Colorado Rockies.

Ryu clearly helped himself with a Cy Young-worthy campaign in his contract year, though it’s not clear if there will be a strong market for a soon-to-be 33-year-old pitcher with a history of shoulder and elbow injuries.

The Dodgers, who have no shortage of starting pitchers, may attempt to bring Ryu back on a short-term deal, while another California team, the Los Angeles Angels, could be an option if Ryu wants to stay in California.

Ryu mostly kept mum on his free agency in the aftermath of his team’s elimination, saying he’ll talk things over with his agent, Scott Boras.

“We’ll see what happens, and I think my agent will take care of it,” Ryu said. “I’ll have to see if (the team that signs me) recognizes my value.”

Asked what he’ll remember the most about his time with the Dodgers, Ryu said: “I will think about my teammates and coaches. Young guys have grown so much and veterans have been steady. I will also remember a lot of things about the 2019 season, both from the mound and the plate.”