The Los Angeles Dodgers wrapped up their final home series of the regular season with a 7-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies, receiving contributions on both sides of the ball from none other than Hyun-Jin Ryu.
The left-hander most notably slugged his first career home run in the fifth inning — a game-tying blast that he believes was the most pivotal factor in the Dodgers coming from behind to defeat their National League West rival.
Ryu additionally thrived on the mound, yielding just three runs on six hits over seven innings pitched in what amounted to his 13th win of the season.
It marked his third consecutive quality start in September — a promising sign that the 32-year-old has put his struggles from the previous month behind him.
Perhaps even more encouraging was Ryu’s success while pitching to Will Smith. There were earlier rumblings that the rookie’s unfamiliarity with the Dodgers’ starting rotation had led to miscues.
“It was never a problem in the first place,” Ryu said. “Coincidentally, when he started catching, I started struggling. I’m kind of sorry, because I’m well aware of the talk. Today, we were on the same page and we did really well as a battery.”
Ryu has far and away pitched his best baseball this season with Russell Martin behind the plate, compiling a minuscule 1.60 ERA in 123.2 innings pitched (19 starts).
Smith, however, has garnered the most opportunities at catcher since being promoted to the Dodgers for a third time in July, when he assumed starting duties on a full-time basis. In a limited sample size that includes only six games, Ryu has accumulated a 5.40 ERA when throwing to Smith — easily the worst mark of the four catchers he has pitched to this season.
“There really wasn’t a doubt in our eyes,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the positive results Ryu enjoyed with Smith behind the plate on Sunday. “Regardless of who’s back there, he has to make pitches.
“Obviously the numbers are real and you have to look and listen and appreciate them, but sometimes things can be overblown. This is a case in point, if he’s throwing the ball well, it doesn’t matter who’s back there.”
Roberts previously defended Smith amidst speculation that he hasn’t meshed well with certain pitchers and isn’t blaming his learning curve for the starting staff’s struggles in recent weeks.