After tying the best-of-five series at one game behind a Matt Kemp eighth-inning home run, the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals met for Game 3 at Busch Stadium Monday night. Despite not pitching since Sept. 12 due to shoulder irritation, Hyun-Jin Ryu took the mound with the Dodgers expressing confidence he wouldn’t skip a beat.
Ryu struck out the first two batters he faced in the first inning and got Jhonny Peralta to ground out after walking Matt Holliday. The southpaw allowed back-to-back singles to lead off the second inning, then faced runners on the corners with two outs but got out of the jam to keep the game scoreless.
As he’s done throughout the series, Matt Carpenter came up with a big hit as he led off the third inning with a solo home run that gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. Holliday added a one-out single in the inning, but the Cardinals wouldn’t get anything else.
Ryu pitched scoreless fourth and fifth innings before the Dodgers managed to tie the game in the sixth, and the lefty then went out and threw a shutdown inning. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly pinch-hit for Ryu in the seventh with two outs and nobody on base.
Ryu had thrown 94 pitches through six innings but following the loss, said he was capable of remaining in the game, via the OC Register’s Pedro Moura:
Ryu, thru translator, on how he felt after 6 innings: “I could’ve definitely kept on pitching. But Donnie made the decision for the team.”
— Pedro Moura (@pedromoura) October 7, 2014
Pinch-hitter Scott Van Slyke grounded out to short and Scott Elbert took the mound in the bottom of the seventh. Elbert gave up a leadoff double to Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong followed with a two-run home run that proved to be the difference.
The apprehension to pushing Ryu another inning is certainly understandable given he hadn’t pitched in a live game for nearly one month. However, Ryu needed just eight pitches to get three outs in the fourth inning, and 26 pitches to get through the fifth and sixth.
Ryu routinely topped 100 pitches during the season and appeared to still have plenty left in his pitches Monday night. Moreover, the Dodgers’ bullpen struggles have been a recurring theme. Mattingly’s decision to call on a reliever rather than push his starter has now backfired in consecutive games.
Mattingly lifted Zack Greinke after seven innings in Game 2 and J.P. Howell promptly gave up back-to-back hits with the second a Carpenter game-tying, two-run home run. Conversely, Mattingly stuck with Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 and that also didn’t work out to his advantage.
Kershaw returns to the mound Tuesday with the Dodgers in a must-win position in order to avoid being eliminated by the Cardinals in consecutive seasons.