Just one day after Josh Beckett twirled a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Los Angeles Dodgers took the field behind left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu on Memorial Day, and the faced off against a different opponent in the Cincinnati Reds. Through seven innings, the 27-year-old Ryu was “perfect” and very much threatening to become the 24th pitcher in Major League history to accomplish that feat. The dream fell flat in the eighth inning, unfortunately, but Ryu did navigate more than 7 innings of quality ball, and the Dodgers were able to hold on for a 4-3 victory.
While the occasion of his teammate throwing a no-hitter on Sunday wouldn’t mathematically decrease the likelihood of a perfect game, the fact that Ryu was able to follow Beckett’s effort by flirting with a perfect game is startling. The first hit that he allowed came to Todd Frazier, who led off the 8th inning with a double, and while he couldn’t emerge from that inning without allowing a run, Ryu very much deserved the victory that he was awarded with on the stat sheet.
Prior to this start, Ryu held a 4-2 record and a 3.00 ERA in eight outings across 45 innings, and he even battled some shoulder issues earlier in the season that cost him a few starts after being placed on the disabled list. Still, this was (quite obviously) a new peak for the left-hander, and his economical approach with a low pitch count combined with the ability to strike out opposing hitters (Ryu was able to generate 7 K’s in the game) was masterful to watch at times. Prior to Ryu’s effort, the only perfect game in Dodgers history came from legendary figure Sandy Koufax in 1965, and any time a pitcher can be in the class with Koufax even for seven innings, it has been a good day.
Ryu exited with a 4-1 lead in the eighth inning, and despite allowing two more runs, the Los Angeles bullpen was able to preserve the advantage that Ryu helped to create. While the final result certainly wasn’t the one that everyone dreamed about during his seven innings of perfection, it was a Memorial Day to remember for Hyun-Jin Ryu.