Angels are no match for Ryu
While Matt Kemp, Luis Cruz and some of the other slumping Dodgers were in various stages of finding themselves, Hyun-Jin Ryu looked as if he knew exactly what he was doing.
Ryu pitched his first shutout in the major leagues in the Dodgers’ 3-0 victory over the Angels at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night, limiting Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Co. to two hits as his team trumped its crosstown rival for the second time in as many nights.
The Dodgers have won four of their last six games as they head to Angel Stadium, where they will play the last two games of the Freeway Series on Wednesday and Thursday.
Backed by a two-run home run by Cruz, Ryu improved to 6-2 and passed Clayton Kershaw as the Dodgers’ winningest pitcher. He didn’t walk any batters and retired 19 consecutive batters at one point, a stretch that ended when Chris Iannetta doubled with two out in the eighth inning. Ryu struck out seven.
“Pretty special,” Manager Don Mattingly said.
The performance supported Mattingly’s case that the Dodgers are capable of climbing out of last place and making a run for the National League West title. The Dodgers believe they have three legitimate front-line pitchers in Ryu, Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
“We’re going to need pitching,” Mattingly said. “It’s really what we’re trying to lay our hat on. That’s what’s going to win over the long haul.”
They also need Kemp to start hitting like Kemp, which is why Mattingly dropped his $160-million center fielder to the fifth spot in the lineup. Doing so, Mattingly figured, would alleviate some of the pressure felt by the slumping All-Star, who struck out four times the previous game.
Kemp doubled in the sixth inning and scored on a single by A.J. Ellis to increase the Dodgers’ lead to 3-0. But Kemp was also struck by a pitch on his right elbow in the second inning, which made his throwing arm numb. Skip Schumaker took his place in center field in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Mattingly said he expected Kemp to play Wednesday, when ace Jered Weaver returns to the mound for the Angels.
“Right now, it’s a little sore,” Kemp said. “But I mean, tomorrow when I wake up, that’s when we’ll see how it feels. I just don’t want to wake up and not be able to feel my arm.”
Kemp was understanding of Mattingly’s decision to drop him in the order.
“He’s got to do what he’s got to do,” Kemp said. “I don’t disagree with him for moving me down. I’ve been giving away a lot of at-bats. I really haven’t been helping my team too much.”
This marked the first time Kemp batted lower than fourth since Sept. 27, 2010.
“Hopefully, I can get it going in the five-hole,” Kemp said. “Shoot, I’ll try any hole -- one-hole, two-hole, three-hole, five-hole, six-hole, seven-hole, eight-hole, nine-hole.”
Mattingly said he also envisions batting Kemp second or fifth, depending on the pitching matchup.
Kemp’s sense of humor appeared to still be intact, as he cracked several jokes about his inability to hit.
“I can’t let this get me down,” Kemp said. “Baseball is not an easy sport. I think we’ve all struggled. I’ve had some conversations with some future Hall of Fame baseball players and they’ve been through the same things I’m going through at this moment. All of them told me the same thing, that I can hit and you have to believe you can hit and it will come back.”
Cruz is fighting a similar battle, only he faces the addition burden of knowing he could be released when Hanley Ramirez returns from the disabled list next week. Cruz started for the second consecutive game, this time at shortstop in place of Nick Punto, who was out because of a stiff back.
Cruz began the game batting .105. His two-run home run against former teammate Joe Blanton in the fifth inning was his first extra-base hit this season.
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