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Classic Ryu gives Toronto a vital steady start

Grichuk, Biggio go yard, but Tellez (concussion protocol) exits early in win
@KeeganMatheson
August 18, 2020

It’s an ace’s job to stop their team from spiraling when the tough losses pile up, and Hyun-Jin Ryu nailed it on Monday night in Baltimore. With the Blue Jays coming off a brutal Sunday that saw them drop two games to the Rays and lose their best player, Bo

It’s an ace’s job to stop their team from spiraling when the tough losses pile up, and Hyun-Jin Ryu nailed it on Monday night in Baltimore.

With the Blue Jays coming off a brutal Sunday that saw them drop two games to the Rays and lose their best player, Bo Bichette, to a knee injury, a young and frustrated roster needed Ryu to stick his foot in the ground for them. He did it in classic Ryu fashion, too, with a performance that lulled the Orioles to sleep more than it overpowered them in a 7-2 win.

Box score

Ryu’s six innings of one-run ball were all about weak contact, as he forced 11 groundouts and allowed just one ball to be put into play with an exit velocity north of 100 mph, according to Statcast. The veteran forced just four swinging strikes on his 86 pitches, but with his changeup working, it was hard to find a balanced swing against him.

“I was just trying to get as much weak contact as possible, because they’re aggressive as they can get,” Ryu said. “I think that not staying on one particular pitch definitely helps, so giving them different looks and different speeds has made things more successful recently.”

It seemed surprising that Ryu was lifted after just 86 pitches, given how sharp he looked, but Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said that change was due to game flow, not Ryu himself. Montoyo planned to send his ace back out for the seventh, but the top half of the frame stretched on, including an Orioles pitching change, so they went to the bullpen instead with Ryu getting cold.

“Ryu, for sure, was ready to pitch 100 today,” Montoyo said.

The bullpen needed this from Ryu, too, as Toronto’s starting rotation has averaged just under 4 1/3 innings per start through the first 18 games of the season. The Blue Jays have weathered that subpar performance thanks in large part to the young starters who have converted to relief roles, handling multiple innings at a time. But that can only be so sustainable.

Ryu came into Monday’s outing with an uncharacteristic nine walks in 20 innings of his Blue Jays tenure, but he’s stepped back into his old self since the calendar flipped to August. Outfielder Randal Grichuk said after the game that having Ryu on the mound means he’s always engaged, with his head up on defense, and that showed in a clean game from the Blue Jays. Ryu’s velocity still isn’t where he likes it, but he’s almost there.

“My command has been more of what I want it to be,” Ryu said. “Towards the later innings, I felt good. The velocity isn’t necessarily there yet, but there is some life to it, which is getting the result I want, so I’ve been happy.”

Toronto’s offense used a series of awkward jabs to set up its big blow in the third inning on Monday, scoring its first run with four consecutive balls in play that didn’t leave the infield. After that series of dribblers and well-placed rollers brought home the first run, Grichuk decided to do things the old fashioned way, launching a three-run home run to centre, his third in four games.

After seeing just six pitches in each of the first and second frames, the Blue Jays rapping six hits in the third was a much better strategy.

Cavan Biggio chipped in with his sixth home run of the season as he continues to give the Blue Jays a unique combination of power and on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot.

The only negative to come out of Monday’s win was Rowdy Tellez leaving the game late after an awkward collision at first base on a throw across the diamond in the seventh inning. Tellez finished the defensive frame, but he was pinch-hit for in his next at-bat and is currently going through concussion protocol.

Keegan Matheson covers the Blue Jays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.