The voice of Hyun-Jin Ryu sounded faint as he detailed the latest malady to befall the 2018 Los Angeles Dodgers.
“It doesn’t feel good,” Ryu said through his interpreter, Bryan Lee, after a 2-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ryu had injured his groin in the past. The last time, in 2016, he missed a month. Now he was awaiting a scan on the strained muscles in his left groin. “This seems to be worse than the ones I had in the past.”
The Dodgers were unsure how much time Ryu will miss. Manager Dave Roberts described the injury as “a big loss.” The ailment could cement top prospect Walker Buehler as a member of the team’s rotation. On Wednesday, the uncertainty concerning Ryu cast a shadow over the team’s most unlikely victory of the season.
After Ryu departed midway through the second inning, a relief quintet led by Pedro Baez secured the final 23 outs. The beleaguered group kept the Diamondbacks at bay as the Dodgers (13-17) ended a four-game losing streak and won for the second time in nine games.
“The bullpen was huge today,” said rookie outfielder Alex Verdugo, who powered the offense by doubling twice and scoring after each. “That was unbelievable. As soon as Ryu left, I was like ‘Oh, man, this is going to be a tough one.’ But Baez came in and locked it down.”
Baez picked up eight outs. Daniel Hudson strung together two innings. Tony Cingrani and Josh Fields had scoreless frames. A slick pick at shortstop by Enrique Hernandez helped Fields escape a jam in the eighth; Roberts called it the team’s top highlight of 2018. Kenley Jansen gave up a run in the ninth but hung on to collect a save.
Before Tuesday’s game, Ryu led the Dodgers in wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference. He had a 3-0 record and an ERA of 2.22, with 34 strikeouts in 281/3 innings.
He had improved the velocity of his curveball while increasing its movement. He was the rare bright spot on a roster stacked with spent bulbs.
“Tonight,” Roberts declared, “is the night it turns.”
The Dodgers started the evening well. Verdugo smoked a double into the right-field corner on a two-seam sinker from Arizona starter Zack Godley. After a walk to Yasmani Grandal, Cody Bellinger connected for an RBI single.
The vibes changed in the bottom of the second inning. Ryu delivered a cutter to third baseman Deven Marrero. The pitch missed the inner half of the plate. It would be Ryu’s last throw of the night.
A trainer joined Roberts on the march to the mound. The group conferred for a few moments before giving Ryu space to stretch. Ryu spread into a horse stance for a moment before rising up limping. He stumbled off the mound and back toward the dugout.
Stomping toward the mound to take Ryu’s place was Baez. The Dodgers’ current road trip had not treated him well. He fell off the mound and balked in a run against the Giants on Friday.
A day later, he surrendered a three-run homer. Roberts gave Baez a few days to regroup before the emergency of Wednesday demanded his presence.
Baez answered the call with his finest outing of the season. He turned in 2 2/3 scoreless innings. He extricated himself from a bases-loaded jam in the fourth.
“The bullpen arms did a hell of a job,” Hernandez said. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have won this game.”
Hudson followed Baez onto the diamond. Armed with pristine control for perhaps the first time as a Dodger, Hudson barreled through two spotless frames. He struck out three. In the seventh, Cingrani weathered a two-out double to keep the Dodgers in front.
“They’ve taken a lot of criticism — and obviously, they haven’t performed,” Roberts said. “But tonight, we had no margin for error, essentially, against a very good team playing well. Each one of those guys stepped up.”
The Dodgers celebrated the victory. They had suffered enough defeat on this trip to feel gratification with any type of win. But the impending examination of Ryu did not bode well.
“I’m hoping for the best with the scan,” Roberts said. “But right now, it doesn’t look too promising.”