Updated July. 23, 2014 05:27
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle set a radical lineup to deal with Ryu Hyun-jin, LA Dodgers` left-handed pitcher. He excluded all left-handed hitters including Pedro Alvarez, who has hit 15 home runs, and filled numbers 1 to 9 with right-handed hitters. As of Monday, Ryu had earned two wins and no defeat against the Pirates.
Hurdle`s strategy wasn`t effective, however, in pressing Ryu who was equipped with new tactics. The Dodgers were visiting the Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Tuesday (Korea time). Ryu allowed just two runs and five hits through seven innings to Pirates to reap his 11th win for the season. Ryu threw a hard slider at 140 kilometers per hour.
Until early this year, Ryu was throwing four pitching arsenals, including fastball, curveball, slider and change-up. The most effective against right-handed hitters was change-up, which is usually thrown to look like a fastball but arrives much slower to the strike zone. This pitch is best to induce a swing and miss or a ground ball.
Since the end of the season`s first half, Ryu started to throw a fast slider, a fast ball that breaks towards the right side of the body of the hitter. This can be classified as cut fastball given speed and sloping angle. Ryu simply calls this "slider" but the ball is faster than normal sliders, while the slope of angle is smaller. In the first inning, Ryu cut off with a fast slider Andrew McCutchen who swung and missed for a strikeout. Gaby Sanchez and Russell Martin, the first batters for the second inning, were also stopped with a swing and miss due to this ball.
Cut fastball was the main weapon of former New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, one of the most famous finishing pitcher of the major leagues. Hitters were aware of the ball but still failed to hit it. Ryu said he learned this from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt when he was in the injured list for a month due to shoulder injury in late April.
Ryu allowed two runs on three hits over four innings on Tuesday, but allowed no more runs afterward as he changed to a combination of curveball and change-up. Dodgers won Pirates 5 to 2.
Following a successful play in his first game for the second half of the season, Ryu now shares a multi-victory player status within Dodgers along with Clayton Kershaw (11 wins, two losses) and Zack Greinke (11 wins, six losses). He is only one win behind Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals) and Alfredo Simon (Cincinnati Reds), both who have 12 wins so far.
At an interview with local media after the game, Ryu said, "The new pitch is good. It is effective in getting a swing and miss strikeout." Whether it is called a slider or a cut fastball is not important. The important fact is that Ryu has added a new weapon.