Ryu took swings at dispelling a few common beliefs in the Dodgers’ 7-4 win over the Rockies at Dodger Stadium, their 100th victory of the year.
Most obviously, yes, Ryu can hit a home run -- on an 0-2 fastball, with an epic bat flip. More central to the team’s success, yes, Ryu can pitch to rookie catcher Will Smith. And, yes, Ryu can win a ballgame, which he hadn’t done since Aug. 11, explaining that better balance has brought better results.
Ryu, Bellinger, Smith and Corey Seager homered as the magic number was cut to one for home-field advantage in the National League Championship Series.
The Dodgers reached the 100-win mark for the seventh time since 1900. They finished the home schedule at 59-22, the best mark in Los Angeles history and one shy of the Brooklyn record set in '53. They also set a franchise record by winning their 33rd series of the season, finishing 15-4 against the Rockies this year and 8-1 when playing them at Dodger Stadium.
It being Fan Appreciation Day, manager Dave Roberts felt it was fitting that their most dominant starting pitcher this season had one of his most memorable moments.
“There were chants from the dugout -- Babe Ryuth,” said Roberts. “It got our dugout going and the fans going. But just the way he threw the ball today, it was back to the old Hyun-Jin. His entire mix was good. We needed this from him.”
Ryu went seven innings, struck out eight (for a career-high 156) without a walk, raised his record to 13-5 and boosted his sagging chances for the NL Cy Young Award, although he also served up home runs to Garrett Hampson and Sam Hilliard.
Roberts pointed out how well Ryu and Smith synced up.
“There really wasn’t a doubt in our eyes,” Roberts said. “Regardless of who’s back there, he has to make pitches. Obviously, the numbers are real and you have to look and listen and appreciate them. But sometimes things can be overblown. This is a case in point, if he’s throwing the ball well, it doesn’t matter who’s back there.”
Leading into the game, there was much discussion about how Ryu’s ERA with regular batterymate Russell Martin was 1.60, but 5.81 with Smith.
“It was never a problem [in] the first place,” said the diplomatic Ryu. “Coincidentally, when he started catching, I started struggling, so I’m kind of sorry because I’m well aware of the talk. Today, we were on the same page and we did really well as a battery.”
Roberts wouldn’t say where Ryu slots into the postseason rotation. But considering he’s 10-1 at Dodger Stadium this year and 28-14 in his career, he figures to start Game 1 or 2 at home. The current order is Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, then Ryu.
“If you look at our three guys, they’re very interchangeable,” said Roberts. “We can still pivot as far as aligning them. I don’t think we can make a bad decision.”
Speaking of sagging chances for offseason awards, NL Most Valuable Player Award candidate Bellinger slugged his 46th home run and has 114 RBIs, an upbeat sign considering his second-half power drop. And this one, of the grand slam variety, came off left-hander Jake McGee, the 18th homer for Bellinger off lefties. Last year, he was benched against southpaws.
So what did the team’s best home run hitter think about the newest?
“His was more important,” Bellinger said of Ryu’s. “He’s unbelievable in batting practice. Really shocking he’s never hit one before. No moment too big for him. I think we were more excited than he was.”