Ryu, Nerves? Not on this day

October 15, 2013
Los Angeles Dodgers’ Ryu Hyun-jin pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles Monday. / AFP-Yonhap

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Ryu Hyun-jin pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles Monday. (AFP-Yonhap)

By Kim Young-jin

Nerves? Not on this day.

Wear and tear from a long season? Didn’t look like it.

With his team on the ropes, Ryu Hyun-jin responded with the best performance of his young Major League Baseball career, as the Los Angeles Dodgers kept their aspirations alive Monday in Los Angeles with a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the American League Championship Series.

Ryu gave up three hits and struck out four ― including a highlight reel punch-out of Matt Adams ― over seven strong innings. The win was a shot in the arm for the Dodgers, who were on the verge of a dangerous 0-3 hole. It secured the chance to get the ball back in the hands of one of their Cy Young winners, Clayton Kershaw or Zach Grienke.

“The playoffs are one-day momentum swings,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Right now I feel like we’ve kind of grabbed it.”

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig celebrates in front of St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright after hitting a run-scoring triple during the fourth inning. / AP-Yonhap

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig celebrates in front of St. Louis Cardinals
starting pitcher Adam Wainwright after hitting a run-scoring triple during the fourth inning. / AP-Yonhap

On Monday, it was Ryu who played the part of ace, taking a huge step towards becoming a bona fide big-game pitcher by outdueling postseason stalwart Adam Wainwright. Depending on how the series unfolds, Ryu could take the mound.

With the crowd on its feet and waving their towels in the top of the seventh, Ryu ― who had thrown over 100 pitches ― blew a pitch by Adams, stranding a man at first to end the inning.

The performance showed that the Incheon native can bounce back from adversity. In his previous start, Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Braves, he was chased after allowing four runs in three innings.

Reliever Brian Wilson struck out Matt Carpenter to end the eighth and Kenley Jansen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to preserve the win.

It was a must-win for Los Angeles, stymied by the St. Louis pitching staff in the first two games. Coming home empty-handed stung more because the Dodgers squandered solid pitching from Grienke and Kershaw.

Ryu was impressive from the start, holding the Cardinals hitless through four innings.

The Dodgers were patient against Wainwright in the fourth, breaking through when Mark Ellis hit a double to right-center and advanced on a Hanley Ramirez sacrifice fly. Adrian Gonzalez brought him in, roping a double to right.

Sparkplug rookie Yasiel Puig scored Gonzalez on a wall ball to right. He beat out a triple after a premature bat-flip worthy of the Korean Baseball Organization, where many players seem to have enrolled in the Manny Ramirez school of long-ball gazing.

Ryu ran into trouble in the fifth, giving up consecutive singles, but as he did throughout the regular season, wriggled out of the jam. However, he caught a break when Pete Kozma was doubled up on a John Jay fly ball.

The big lefty from Incheon rolled in the sixth. In the seventh, Daniel Descalso reached on a fielder’s choice setting up Ryu’s matchup with Adams.

Hanley Ramirez, suffering from a broken rib, singled in Carl Crawford in the 8th to provide an insurance run.

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Carl Crawford slides safely past St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina during the eighth inning. / AP-Yonhap

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Carl Crawford slides safely past St. Louis Cardinals
catcher Yadier Molina during the eighth inning. (AP-Yonhap)

The Dodgers’ toppling of Wainwright was no small feat. Prior to the game the ace was 4-0 with a 2.03 earned run average and 57 strikeouts in 15 appearances, 12 of which his team won.

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