Column: Dodgers’ humbling loss to Yankees reveals potential woes
No conversation was necessary. His head lowered in defeat, Hyun-Jin Ryu started to descend the mound before manager Dave Roberts reached him.
The journey to the bench was unlike any Ryu had made at Dodger Stadium this season, with the packed house shocked into silence.
The problem wasn’t so much that Ryu lost at home for the first time. What was alarming was how he lost.
October suddenly didn’t feel as inviting.
In the New York Yankees, the Dodgers encountered the American League version of themselves, a collection of hitters who possess as much patience as they do power. And the potential World Series opponents did to Ryu what the Dodgers have done to countless pitchers who have dared to take the mound here, forcing him out of the game 4 1/3 innings into the 10-2 obliteration.
The Dodgers and Hyun-Jin Ryu are hammered in a 10-2 loss to the Yankees, who take the opener of a series billed as a potential World Series glimpse.
The results were as ugly as the monochromatic Sunday-softball-league-style uniforms the players teams wore for the so-called Players Weekend.
The seven runs charged to Ryu matched the total from his previous 11 starts at Dodger Stadium. The three home runs he gave up equaled his home total entering the game.
And to think that before this visit from the Yankees, the perfect scenario for the Dodgers included them opening the World Series under the same conditions they played in Friday night.
With Ryu on the mound.
Then again, Ryu hadn’t pitched against a lineup like the Yankees’. These weren’t the Arizona Diamondbacks, the San Francisco Giants or the San Diego Padres.
The “savages,” as Yankees manager Aaron Boone refers to his hitters, can conquer their opposition a variety of ways.
Ryu hadn’t given up more than a single home run in any of his home starts. The Yankees blasted two in the third inning. Aaron Judge was the first to punish him, depositing one of his trademark changeups into the left-field pavilion.
Two batters later, Gary Sanchez sent a cutter over the same wall to double the Yankees’ lead to 2-0.
Between the two home runs, Gleyber Torres worked a nine-pitch at-bat that ended in a strikeout. Torres’ approach was part of a concerted effort to fatigue Ryu. The left-hander’s pitch count was at 58 through three innings and 77 through four.
That set the stage for Ryu’s fifth-inning collapse.
With the Yankees holding on to a 2-1 advantage, DJ LeMahieu and Judge started the inning with consecutive singles. Torres grounded out to short on a slow roller that permitted Judge and LeMahieu to advance to second and third base, respectively.
Ryu intentionally walked Sanchez to load the bases, but the plan backfired spectacularly when Didi Gregorius redirected a down-the-middle fastball into the right-field stands.
The grand slam was the first Ryu had allowed in six major leagues seasons.
Ryu’s night ended following a double by Gio Urshela. The Dodgers were down 6-1. Their deficit increased by another run when left-handed-hitting Brett Gardner doubled off left-hander Adam Kolarek to drive in Urshela.
Ryu’s record dropped to 12-4. His earned-run average, which was 1.64 before the game, soared to 2.00.
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager is looking like the Seager who was on fire for three weeks before a strained hamstring knocked him out for a month.
“That ERA was a too-good-to-be-true type number,” Ryu said through an interpreter.
A single regular-season game won’t determine the Dodgers’ postseason fate. However, this defeat revealed some problems the Dodgers could encounter in the postseason, especially if they have to play the Yankees again.
First, Ryu is trending in the wrong direction. He also lost his previous start, which was against the Atlanta Braves, another possible postseason opponent. Ryu has pitched 152 2/3 innings, already his most since his rookie season in 2013.
“I don’t feel any fatigue at the moment,” he claimed.
Second, the Yankees’ ability to exhaust opposing pitchers will make the Dodgers more dependent on their inconsistent bullpen than they would like.
Third, the Yankees’ continued success against left-handed pitchers could be frightening for a team whose postseason rotation could include the likes of Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill.
The Yankees’ victory on Friday was the team’s ninth in a row against a left-handed starter. They entered the game batting .330 against left-handers since July 1.
Ryu wasn’t reading too much into the defeat, saying it was the result of what he didn’t do rather than what the Yankees did. “I always emphasize that commanding my pitches is the most important part of my game,” he said. “I obviously couldn’t do that. If you look at the home runs today, [the pitches] all ended up in the quadrants I did not want. Mistakes like that hurt me.”
He was confident this was something he could remedy.
The Dodgers better hope he’s right. Because if Friday was a preview of the World Series, Halloween will be coming early to Los Angeles.
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