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Ryu holds his end of the bargain in tough loss

ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers couldn't have asked for any more from left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu during Monday night's 3-1 loss to the Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium, making only his fourth start since Aug. 13 and first in three weeks.

Ryu gave the Dodgers six strong innings and was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh with the score tied at 1, having allowed one run on five hits, including a homer to Matt Carpenter leading off the third inning. The game came apart three pitches after Ryu was replaced in the game by southpaw reliever Scott Elbert.

Could he have pitched another inning?

"Sure," Ryu, who threw 94 pitches in his first start since injuring his left shoulder on Sept. 12, said through an interpreter. "Yeah, I mean, if I'm out there I'm going to keep going."

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has been snake-bitten with the timing of pulling his starters during the first three games of this best-of-five series that the Cards lead, 2-1.

Mattingly stuck with his best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, who started struggling a bit in the seventh, in Game 1 and pulled Zack Greinke from Game 2 and Ryu from Game 3. Mattingly said it was a no-brainer to stay with Kershaw, a possible NL MVP and Cy Young Award winner this season. Greinke told Mattingly he was spent. And in the past few months, Ryu has suffered through a back injury and the recurrence of an early-season shoulder problem, this time taking a cortisone shot to stem the inflammation.

"It was pretty amazing that a guy can be off that long and be that sharp," Mattingly said. "Having the touch and feel that he does when he uses his changeup and breaking ball and be able to look at both sides of the plate, we thought going five would be good. But really, giving us that extra inning, gave us a chance."

A.J. Ellis, who caught Ryu, agreed there was no reason to push it. The back problem took Ryu out from Aug. 13-31. He subsequently made three starts -- at San Diego, at home against Arizona and at San Francisco -- before he was shut down again because of the shoulder soreness.

Ryu also missed most of May with a similar shoulder injury and has won only twice in his past seven starts, dating back to Aug. 2. He was 14-7 with a 3.38 ERA in 26 regular-season starts and was limited to only 152 innings. He made 27 pitches in a 9-0 loss to the Giants on Sept. 12 and came out after one inning. Until Monday night, he hadn't pitched since then.

"After the long layoff and the way he threw the ball for us, getting 18 huge outs, Hyun-Jin did his job," Ellis said. "It's a tough spot to ask a guy who took that long of a break to come back out. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get him a win that he had earned."

While he was in there, Ryu kept the Cardinals off balance, striking out four and walking just one. He left runners stranded on first and third after Matt Adams and Yadier Molina led off the second with singles. The lefty-swinging Carpenter opened the third with his third homer of the series, one coming in each game and all of them against left-handers. After that, Ryu faced only 12 batters, allowing a pair of singles.

"That was Hyun-Jin at his finest there," Ellis said. "He just threw a great game, six strong innings. He didn't have to pitch out of too many jams. He just had complete control of the game. It was a great lift for us. He kept us in the game."

And Ryu was satisfied with what could be his last start of the year.

"To single out my performance, I feel pretty satisfied with it," he said. "It's very fortunate that nothing happened and I feel pretty good."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.
Read More: Los Angeles Dodgers, Hyun-Jin Ryu