LOS ANGELES (AP) – Hyun-Jin Ryu made his first major league relief appearance for the Los Angeles Dodgers, tossing four scoreless innings to earn his first career save.
Taking the career starter out of his comfort zone required careful deliberation among the front office, doctors and Ryu, who admittedly wasn’t thrilled at the idea.
He worked in relief of starter Kenta Maeda, who rallied the Dodgers to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night.
“Those two guys back-to-back in a tandem situation is pretty lethal,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Ryu allowed two hits and struck out two. He became the second Dodger to record a save in his first career relief appearance since Charlie Hough on Aug. 12, 1970, at Pittsburgh. It was Ryu’s first relief outing as a pro since 2011 in the Korean Baseball Organization.
“My initial reaction was I didn’t understand where the front office was coming from,” Ryu said through a translator. “I’m a starter at heart. I believe I’ll get another start. It was just a one-time appearance so you can’t really say I’m good at this role.”
Roberts showed up an hour late to his pregame media availability explaining he had been on conference calls with doctors to discuss players like Rob Segedin. Eventually, Roberts admitted management was trying to figure out Ryu’s role.
“It’s been in the works for a few days and just trying to find the right time to plug him in,” Roberts said after the game.
Ryu, who had left shoulder and elbow surgeries over the last two seasons, was removed from the rotation after a 7-2 win over Miami on May 18. He is 2-5 with a 4.75 ERA this season.
“It definitely wasn’t the same,” Ryu said, referring to his pregame routine. “The most difficult part was warming up before the game. I didn’t know exactly when I would be put into the game, so there was some difficulty there.”
Roberts credited Ryu’s “unselfishness to do something that he’s never done before.”
However, Roberts added, “This is not something that we plan on being permanent. It’s just to make sure we build his pitch count up, get him some consistent innings.”
Asked before the game if Ryu would be traded, Roberts replied, “I’m not going to answer that.”
Maeda fell into a 3-0 hole in the first inning of his first start for the Dodgers in two weeks coming off the disabled list.
“It was a little hard getting into the game with the long layoff,” he said through a translator. “It took some time to get my rhythm back.”
Maeda (4-2) drove in the tying and go-ahead runs with a two-out single in the fourth off Michael Wacha and turned an inning-ending double play in the fifth to help the Dodgers take two of three from the Cardinals.
Maeda allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings, struck out four and walked two.
He missed 13 games with a tight left hamstring while on the DL since May 11. Maeda got off to a rocky start in his return, giving up Jedd Gyorko’s two-run double and Yadier Molina’s RBI single in the first that extended his major league-leading hitting streak to 14 games.
The Dodgers took over from there.
Chase Utley homered for the first time this season leading off the second. Yasiel Puig’s two-out single in the fourth made it 3-2 before Maeda’s two-run single gave the Dodgers a 4-3 lead. He was out stretching at second.
Maeda hit Matt Carpenter in the left foot leading off the fifth. With one out, Maeda started an inning-ending double play when Molina grounded to the mound.
Wacha (2-2) gave up a season-worst six runs and seven hits in a season-low four-plus innings. The right-hander struck out five and walked two. The six runs were the most he’s allowed since May 19, 2016, against Colorado.
“They did a good job battling,” Wacha said. “Whenever I’d get ahead they would battle to get it full count, 2-2. Put up good at-bats and in some of those cases I wasn’t able to finish them off.”
Brett Cecil replaced Wacha with two on in the fifth and struggled with his control. His two wild pitches led to a run being scored before Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI double made it 6-3.
Cardinals CF Dexter Fowler snapped an 0-for-20 skid with a single leading off the first inning, his only hit in five at-bats. Manager Mike Matheny has considered dropping Fowler from the leadoff spot he’s been in for every start this season as a way to spark his offense. Fowler ended the day with a .205 average.
Cardinals: RHP Carlos Martinez (3-3, 3.28 ERA) makes his team-leading 10th start Friday in the opener of a three-game series at Colorado.
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