Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu was almost perfect on Memorial Day 2014, just one day after teammate Josh Beckett, 34, threw his first career no-hitter. Ryu, 27, retired the first 21 hitters he faced on Monday, striking out seven of them and not allowing a walk.
The Dodgers batted for a full 32 minutes in the bottom of the seventh which probably didn’t help Ryu very much except for the fact that they did score three runs to make the score 4-0. Justin Turner had a 16-pitch at-bat against Johnny Cueto, one of baseball’s hottest pitchers this season, before drawing a walk. A pitching change from Cueto to Manny Parra also prolonged the bottom of the inning. Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly reportedly said,
“It was good that we scored runs, but I think it probably hurt him [Ryu] at that point. It kind of broke the momentum for him.”
Ryu lost his perfect game bid when the Reds’ Todd Frazier doubled leading off the eighth inning. With the Dodgers up 4-0, Ryu then gave up two more hits and a run.
Things almost began to fall apart when Brian Wilson, who came into the game in relief of Ryu, walked the the second and third batters he faced. He then gave up a two-out double to Billy Hamilton scoring two more runs. Kenley Jansen came in and got the final out of the eighth. In the ninth Jansen got out of a jam with two outs and two runners on by getting Devin Mesoraco to fly out to center to end the game. The Dodgers hung on to win the game 4-3.
Turner called himself “the cooler” because of his long at-bat but he made two hit saving plays at third and Ryu actually praised him after the game saying the third baseman’s defense,
“was a huge part of the game today. He actually inspired me into trying a little bit harder with those plays early.”
Still the real story of the game was Ryu’s seven inning performance. According to MLB.com’s Earl Bloom Mattingly told Ryu before boarding the plane home from Philadelphia on Sunday,
“He’d have to pitch a perfect game [Monday] to top Beckett.”
Ryu reportedly said that the manager’s words didn’t have any effect on his performance and that,
“Pitching big games doesn’t happen because you want them to happen. A lot of things have to fall into place.”
He’s right and that’s exactly why they don’t happen everyday. No-hitters are very rare but perfect games? There have only been 23 in the history of baseball which dates back approximately 130 years and no single pitcher has ever pitched two. So, it’s absolutely true that for those games to happen factors – some controllable, others not – have to fall into place perfectly.