Ryu Hyun-jin leans on trusted changeup in solid start vs. Red Sox

September 18, 2023

Toronto Blue Jays starter Ryu Hyun-jin kept putting runners on base but kept stranding them, too, using his old reliable weapon in the process.

The South Korean left-hander tossed 4 2/3 shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre in Toronto on Sunday (local time). Ryu, who scattered six hits, got the hook with the Blue Jays leading 1-0 to settle for a no-decision in his second scoreless start since returning from Tommy John surgery on Aug. 1.

The Blue Jays won the game 3-2, as the Red Sox stranded 12 runners — eight of them with Ryu on the mound.

Ryu only had one clean inning, the top of the first. The Red Sox had a man in scoring position in every inning from the second to the fifth against Ryu, who leaned on his trusted changeup to keep the opponents at bay.

In some recent outings, Ryu had enjoyed success with his slow, looping curveball sitting in the mid-60s in miles per hour. He would either freeze hitters with benders in the zone or get them to chase ones in the dirt with ugly swings. No major league pitcher has thrown slower curveballs than Ryu this year.

The Red Sox came out ready for the pitch in this one, after hitting off some slow curves off the pitching machine before Saturday’s game.

They made some hard contact off the curve early on, with Adam Duvall hitting a ringing double in the top of the second, and Reese McGuire singling to center in the top of the third.

All told, Ryu allowed an average exit velocity of 90 mph off his curveball, compared to 84.2 mph in his previous start against the Texas Rangers.

The savvy veteran that he is, Ryu adjusted midgame and went to his changeup — long his bread-and-butter pitch — in crucial situations.

With runners at first and second with one out in the top second, Ryu got Trevor Story and Dalbec to hit flyouts on changeups. Then in the next inning, Ryu put men on second and third for the dangerous part of the lineup, before retiring Rob Refsnyder to a shallow fly to left and Justin Turner on a groundout to third base, both with changeups.

For all the great work that Ryu has done with the curveball this year, the changeup remains his second most-used pitch, behind only his four-seam fastball, with the usage rate of 23.1 percent.

Against the Red Sox, Ryu threw the changeup 23 percent of the time, 19 out of his 83 pitches.

Those 19 changeups generated just one whiff on 11 swings, but he didn’t need to get swings and misses when he could retire opponents on soft grounders and harmless flyouts.