LOS ANGELES – Dave Roberts liberally drops the adjective “elite” when describing his players, but it’s no exaggeration these days when he links it to Hyun-Jin Ryu
Ryu pitched a four-hit masterpiece on Tuesday night in a 9-0 win over the Braves, the shutout doubling for his first complete game since 2013, the team’s first complete game since Aug. 23, 2017 (Rich Hill), and its first shutout since May 3, 2016 (Clayton Kershaw).
“It was good to watch Hyun-Jin do his thing,” said Roberts, who never called down to the bullpen for even a warm-up. “Complete domination tonight. His feel, to strike the breaking ball, has always been elite. It’s hard to say he’s under the radar, but he’s an elite pitcher in baseball. It makes it fun to sit back and watch. I think the only time he broke a sweat was when he was covering first base.”
Ryu took a perfect game into the sixth inning and didn’t allow a runner past second base, while raising his record to 4-1 and lowering his ERA to 2.04. He struck out six without a walk and has struck out 44 with only two walks in 44 1/3 innings this year. He needed only 93 pitches and even singled and dropped a sacrifice bunt.
“He’s very underrated,” said Justin Turner, whose first three-homer and six-RBI game provided more than enough support. “If he doesn’t miss two months last year [with a torn groin muscle], he’s in the Cy Young conversation. Very underrated, and I think he kind of likes it that way. He wants to show up, do his job and doesn’t care about the accolades, but he deserves them all.”
Ryu is 6-0 with a 1.17 ERA at home since last Sept. 27. Since April 10 of this season, his 1.83 ERA and .214 opponents average lead MLB. He hasn’t walked a batter at home since Aug. 26, 2018, over 56 innings and 207 plate appearances.
“I want to be a pitcher my teammates can depend on me every five days, and I will put more effort in so I can start every five days,” said Ryu, who missed nearly two full seasons recovering from major shoulder surgery.
Ryu’s previous start against Atlanta was in Game 1 of last year’s National League Division Series, when he pitched eight scoreless innings and struck out four in a 6-0 win. He’s had only two previous complete games, one a shutout, in his rookie season of 2013.
“He’s been so good, so many different times, but tonight he reached back for 92 [mph] when he needed it and he could have kept going,” said Roberts.
Ryu had an overflow audience of family and friends in attendance and dedicated the win as a birthday gift to his mother.
Tyler Flowers spoiled Ryu’s perfect game by grounding a single past a diving Turner and into left field leading off the sixth inning. Turner joked if he’d realized at the time that Ryu was working on a perfect game, he might have called on superhero powers.
“When I looked up and saw the '1' flash on the board, I wanted to kick myself a little bit more,” said Turner. “Try to dive and ‘Go-Go Gadget Arm’ that ball into the six-hole.”
Right fielder Cody Bellinger preserved the shutout with a tumbling circus catch on the run to rob Ronald Acuna Jr. of extra bases with Ozzie Albies on second base and two out in the seventh inning, giving Roberts a scare four days after Bellinger dislocated his right shoulder diving for a ground ball.
“Cody made a play I don’t think anybody else in baseball can make,” Roberts said.