“There is no pitcher who throws as smoothly from the mound as Ryu Hyun-jin.”
Ryu Hyun-jin (36, Toronto Blue Jays) is attracting attention by competing with slow balls in the major league, which is more accustomed to fast balls. Even before getting sick, Ryu Hyun-jin was a pitcher who was praised for his control rather than his velocity, but after receiving Tommy John surgery in June of last year and undergoing rehabilitation training and treatment for over a year, he began to increase the value of his slow pitches even more. This is the 60 mph curve that emerged as Ryu Hyun-jin’s signature speed this season.
Ryu Hyun-jin started the ‘2023 Major League’ game against the Texas Rangers held at the Rogers Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on the 13th (Korean time) and recorded 5 hits (1 home run), 1 walk, 5 strikeouts, and 3 runs in 6 innings. Although he suffered his third loss (3 wins) of the season as the team’s batting line failed to provide any help at all, giving up the game 3-6, it was meaningful as it was his first quality start after returning from injury. It was a quality start 480 days after the Cincinnati Reds game (6 scoreless innings) on May 21 last year.
Ryu Hyun-jin finished his appearance after throwing 82 balls in 6 innings. His highest fastball speed was 90.6 miles (145.8 km), and his average speed was 88.9 miles (143 km). He mixed fastballs (25) with changeups (18), cutters (18), curves (16), and sinkers (5).
Texas attracted attention by selecting veteran Max Scherzer (39) as the starting pitcher to face Ryu Hyun-jin. Contrary to Ryu Hyun-jin, Scherzer spent his prime as a fastball pitcher. His outstanding strikeout ability is outstanding, and he has achieved a total of 3367 strikeouts, ranking 11th in major league history. Among active pitchers, he ranks 1st, with 4 remaining until 10th place, Greg Maddux (3,371 strikeouts).
Scherzer is a pitcher who boasts outstanding pitching ability, winning the Cy Young Award three times in 2013, 2016, and 2017, but it is true that he is weaker now than he was in his prime as he approaches 40 years old. Still, local media in the United States and Canada described it as a ‘starting matchup between the soft Ryu Hyun-jin and the strong Scherzer,’ drawing attention to what kind of pitching the two veterans would do with the team’s fall baseball fate at stake. As a result, Scherzer earned his 13th win (6 losses) of the season by pitching 5⅓ innings, 73 pitches, 3 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, and no runs.
Canadian media outlet ‘Toronto Sun’ reported, ‘Schurezer, 39, and Ryu Hyun-jin, 36, looked like boxers who were too old to stand in the ring, and it was almost impossible to get a hit from them. He described the fierce pitching battle, saying, “It seemed like he was trying to hit a good hit against Floyd Mayweather (a martial artist).”
He continued, ‘Schuser did not concede a point. Ryu Hyun-jin seemed almost impossible to attack. There is no pitcher who can throw as smoothly from the mound as Ryu Hyun-jin. Hyun-Jin Ryu was just not as perfect as Scherzer. ‘Toronto’s batting lineup was unable to hurt Scherzer in any way,’ he added.
Ryu Hyun-jin pitched to comfort and soothe the hottest Texas batting lineup in the American League. As of the 14th, Texas is ranked first in the American League with a team batting average of 0.266, a team OPS of 0.793, and a team RBI of 759. Even when Texas batters attacked aggressively, Ryu Hyun-jin did not lose his pace and attacked the corners of the strike zone more precisely, increasing the number of outs.
Major League Baseball’s official SNS paid attention to Ryu Hyun-jin’s curveball, 메이저놀이터 which poured cold water on the Texas batting lineup. The speed of the slowest curve that Ryu Hyun-jin threw that day was 62.5 miles (100 km). The SNS video showed Ryu Hyun-jin hitting a 63 mph curveball to Nathaniel Rowe with one out and runner on first base in the top of the fourth inning with a ball count of 0-2, resulting in a looking strikeout. Canadian local commentators were surprised when Rowe struck out while trying to time Ryu Hyun-jin’s curveball, saying, “It completely froze the batter.”
Ryu Hyun-jin, who was cruising along, was also unable to calmly overcome the barrier of Corey Seager, the best hitter in the American League. After losing a timely hit to leadoff hitter Seager in the top of the 4th inning, he was hit by a two-run shot to the left by Robbie Grossman, giving him the lead, 0-2. He allowed Seager’s first hit of the day, and threw a first-pitch cutter to Grossman, which ended up being a miss. In the top of the 6th inning, Ryu Hyun-jin allowed an additional run when he allowed a double to center field to leadoff hitter Seager, and gave up 3 runs by giving up a sacrifice fly to right field to Jonah Haim on first and third base with one out.
Toronto coach John Schneider said, “His pitch control was good. I would have liked to return the cutter he threw to Grossman, but he threw a good ball against a really good batting lineup. He didn’t allow strong batted balls well. The way Ryu Hyun-jin threw from the mound and the scoring situation, Considering the number of pitches, etc., we decided that we could trust him until the 6th inning,” he said, praising the overall pitching content.
The reason Ryu Hyun-jin couldn’t smile despite his first quality start of the season was because of Toronto’s batting lineup blocked by Scherzer. If Scherzer had not suffered a right triceps injury while pitching in the 6th inning, he would have pitched 7 or 8 innings. Scherzer skillfully caught the pitch without much effort.
Scherzer showed his will to ‘throw more’ even as Texas coach Bruce Bochy and training coaches were checking his physical condition. However, as soon as he tried to throw a practice pitch, he realized that it would be difficult and accepted a replacement. It was a scene that showed that Scherzer’s burning desire to win has not aged.
Coach Bochy reflected, “We didn’t want Scherzer to be in danger. We didn’t want to force him to throw. Scherzer said, ‘I’ll keep throwing,’ but we said ‘no’ and stopped him.”
Although Ryu Hyun-jin took the loss, he had a great pitching battle with Scherzer. This is why local media in the U.S. and Canada point out the Toronto batting lineup’s inability to help Ryu Hyun-jin. MLB.com said, ‘Toronto’s batting line was unable to exert any strength until Scherzer retired due to a right triceps injury. The door to Texas’ obvious weakness, the bullpen, was opened early, but (Toronto’s chasing runs) were too little, too late. As a result, he pointed out, “Toronto is once again in the position of chasing Texas (in the wild card race).”
With this loss, Toronto recorded a season record of 80 wins and 65 losses, losing second place in the American League wild card to Texas (80 wins, 64 losses) and falling to third place. Toronto, which entered this series with a 1.5 game lead, is now behind Texas by 0.5 games.
It is true that Toronto is at a disadvantage in the wild card race, but Ryu Hyun-jin showed faith in his teammates to win the remaining two games of the series against Texas. Toronto aims to rebound by sending out Yusei Kikuchi on the 14th and Kevin Gausman on the 15th.
Ryu Hyun-jin said, “There aren’t many games left this season. I know we lost two games in a row, but that’s also part of the game. Tomorrow is another day. We need to focus so we can do better tomorrow.” He said with strength.