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Ryu shows flashes of his potential vs. Nats

@KeeganMatheson
July 30, 2020

With a week in the books and an unexpectedly quiet weekend ahead of them, the Blue Jays are still waiting to see the true Hyun Jin Ryu. Toronto’s new ace was just a bit off in Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Nationals, but for a pitcher who relies so much

With a week in the books and an unexpectedly quiet weekend ahead of them, the Blue Jays are still waiting to see the true Hyun Jin Ryu.

Toronto’s new ace was just a bit off in Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Nationals, but for a pitcher who relies so much on mixing pitches and disrupting timing, it’s a fine line. Ryu was lifted in the fifth inning, just as he was on Opening Day, this time allowing five runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings.

Box score

When Ryu is on the mound, the swings of the hitters at the plate will tell you all you need to know. When the game’s second hitter, Adam Eaton, whiffed on a 67.3-mph curveball that started at his head and ended at his knees, it looked like Ryu had his finesse game working. Starlin Castro was up next, though, and battled through a 12-pitch at-bat for a single, which was a better sample of how the rest of the day would go.

“I could have changed my game plan a little bit and made in-game adjustments,” Ryu said after his start. “Maybe they were sitting on breaking balls and offspeed pitches. I could have made some changes, looking back at it, but things didn’t go the way I had hoped for.”

Ryu’s pitches didn’t have the same zip they usually do, with his four-seam fastball averaging 87.3 mph, down from Opening Day and his 2019 average of 90.7 mph. After getting 14 swings and misses on 97 pitches against the Rays last week, Ryu managed just eight on 93 pitches this time out against the Nationals.

The pitch mix itself, which leaned heavily on offspeed at times, was a result of Ryu trying to recreate the approach that had helped him find success against the Nationals in the past. The velocity dip wasn’t planned, of course, and Ryu noticed it.

“I was able to look at the numbers during the game, and I kind of felt it, too,” Ryu said. “I feel healthy and I feel good, so moving forward, I think it’s only going to get better.”

With the club’s weekend series in Philadelphia now postponed, the Blue Jays enter an off weekend with a 3-4 record that could have easily been better. The lineup and bullpen picked up Ryu in the Opening Day win, but there have been a pair of extra-inning losses along the way and the Blue Jays closed out their Washington series with a pair of losses despite having Nate Pearson and Ryu on the hill.

From here, the Blue Jays will stay in Washington, where they’ll have an off-day Friday, a workout Saturday and then will fly out to Atlanta after another workout Sunday. Manager Charlie Montoyo says his staff will talk about how they handle their rotation from here, and will likely use some live BP sessions over the weekend to keep everyone fresh. The top concern in all of this, of course, remains health and safety.

“We can only control the things that we can control,” Ryu said. “I trust our teammates and staff here that they’re going to be responsible.”

The Blue Jays will hope that the encouraging signs from those games are what will carry forward, not the late letdowns. Teoscar Hernández did everything in his power to drag the Blue Jays to a win Thursday, launching two home runs to give him four homers in as many days at Nationals Park.

The club should also have both Randal Grichuk (back tightness) and Travis Shaw (family medical leave) back when it resumes play. However, Derek Fisher left midway through Thursday’s game with left quad tightness.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.