LOS ANGELES — Hyun-Jin Ryu dazzled in earning his first complete game in the major leagues, pitching a two-hitter in which the left-hander changed speeds and worked both sides of the plate with ease.
“He’s a superstar,” Dodgers All-Star slugger Matt Kemp said. “He kept some great hitters off balance.”
Helped by Luis Cruz’s first homer of the season, the Dodgers beat the Angels 3-0 on Tuesday night in the second game of the Freeway Series.
Ryu (6-2) struck out seven and walked none. The South Korean pitcher retired 19 consecutive batters during one stretch. His six victories lead all rookie pitchers in the majors, while his 71 2/3 innings pitched lead all rookies this season.
“I didn’t think my first complete game would come this early in the season,” he said through a translator. “I was just really comfortable. After the seventh when I realized my pitch count wasn’t that high, I realized I could challenge myself (to finish the game).”
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he enjoyed watching Ryu.
“It’s more of an artist for me, being able to throw both sides of the plate and changing speeds. It’s the art of pitching,” he said, describing Ryu as deceptive.
“He’s a guy whose changeup and off-speed is so good. Now all of a sudden he’s throwing more fastballs,” Mattingly said, noting Ryu’s pitches clocked 93 mph late in the game.
Ryu said, “When the fastball works, everything becomes more effective.”
The rookie is unusual in that he doesn’t throw between starts, something the Dodgers agreed to after signing him to a $36 million, six-year deal that made Ryu the first player to go directly from the Korean league to the major leagues.
“Mostly it’s to preserve the arm but the habit started in Korea when you’re used to throwing 125 pitches per game,” Ryu said.
Joe Blanton (1-8) gave up three runs and seven hits in seven innings while facing his former teammates for the first time since the right-hander signed with the Angels in the offseason after pitching the final two months of last season for the Dodgers. He struck out five and walked none.
“Hats off to Ryu. He threw a great game,” Blanton said.
The Angels played without slugger Josh Hamilton, who was scratched just before the game because of back spasms.
The Angels’ only hits were a single by Howie Kendrick in the second and a double by Chris Iannetta in the eighth.
“He worked in some good changeups and some breaking balls here and there,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said about Ryu. “We just didn’t get too many good looks at him.”
Ryu didn’t just dominate on the mound. He showed off some skills in the field and at the plate. The rookie outsprinted Alberto Callaspo in a foot race to first base to record the second out of the second inning. Ryu slugged a one-hop double to deep right field in the third for the Dodgers’ first hit.
That drew applause from a smiling Clayton Kershaw, who raised his arms in celebration from the dugout.
Mattingly credited Ryu with making the necessary adjustments to the majors.
“The one good thing we did was not try to force our way onto him, letting him show us his way,” the manager said.
Cruz, batting a paltry .105 with two RBIs, gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the fifth with a two-run shot into the left-field pavilion.
“I felt like I made one mistake,” Blanton said. “It was almost where I wanted it, but the pitch didn’t do what it was supposed to do. It just kind of flattened out and didn’t sink, but I had command of all of my pitches.”
With one out in the sixth, Kemp doubled and scored on A.J. Ellis’ RBI single to make it 3-0. Kemp had been 5-for-38 with one homer and two RBIs going into the at-bat. He was dropped to fifth in the order as a way to try to jump-start his offense.
Kemp got hit near his right elbow in his first at-bat. He came out of the game in the ninth after his fingers felt numb and he worried about having to make any throws from the outfield.
“It’s where it got me, it’s not that he threw it real, real hard,” Kemp said about Blanton. “Joe wasn’t trying to do it on purpose.”
The Dodgers rallied from a five-run deficit to win the series opener 8-7 on Monday, snapping the Angels’ eight-game winning streak. The rivalry shifts to Anaheim on Wednesday for two more games.
Ryu has pitched six or more innings in 10 of his 11 starts. … Angels LHP Sean Burnett was placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to Monday, with left elbow impingement, and RHP Tommy Hanson was reinstated from the restricted list. … The Angels mourned longtime team orthopedist Lewis Yocum, whose weekend death from liver cancer was announced Tuesday. He was 65. … The Angels fell to 1-4 in interleague play.
This article was originally posted on ESPN.com