LOS ANGELES — Hyun-Jin Ryu was the overwhelming underdog on paper, matched up against one of the major league’s best in Adam Wainwright on Monday night. The Dodgers were trailing the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, 2-0, and their season was at stake.
The rookie from South Korea shook off the difficult assignment, mowing down the confused Cardinals through his seven innings. He bested Wainwright while the Dodgers’ offense snapped out of its funk to make it a series again with a 3-0 win at Dodger Stadium.
Ryu did not allow a runner to third, allowing three hits and one walk with four strikeouts. Meanwhile, rookie Yasiel Puig pitched in with a thrilling RBI triple to cap a two-run fourth inning as the Dodgers fed off a raucous home crowd.
“All I was thinking about was the fact that we were down, 2-0, and I told myself this could potentially be the last start I ever pitched here this year,” Ryu said through a translator. “So I focused from the very first pitch. I just zoned in and fortunately I was able to get a good result out of the game.”
Los Angeles added an insurance run in the eighth when Hanley Ramirez tapped a soft liner over the glove of second baseman Kolten Wong to score Carl Crawford from second base on a close play at the plate. It was Ramirez’s second hit of the game after he returned to the lineup despite a fractured rib.
While the Dodgers offense finally awoke from the two-game stupor, the starting pitching was again sparkling.
Ryu was brilliant when his team needed it the most. He ended his night with a strikeout of Matt Adams with a runner on first base. It was his 108th pitch and he induced 10 ground outs to go with his four strikeouts. The Dodgers starters — Ryu, Zack Greinke, and Clayton Kershaw — have combined to allow two earned runs in 21 innings.
The Cardinals’ best chance to score Monday was compromised by poor base running in the fifth. David Freese collected the Cardinals’ first hit with a single, but appeared to hurt himself on the sprint to first and did not try for second when the ball squirted away from right fielder Puig.
Adams followed with a single past second baseman Mark Ellis and Freese lumbered to second base, where he was replaced by Daniel Descalso for what was called right calf tightness. Jon Jay followed with a liner to left, but Descalso was caught about three-quarters to third base and was easily doubled up by Crawford.
The Cardinals made a series of missteps and mistakes Monday, especially fielding fly balls.
The Dodgers’ scoreless string finally ended at 22 innings with a two-run burst in the fourth.
Ellis began with a fly ball to right-center. Center fielder Jay looked at right fielder Carlos Beltran as if to say, “You gonna get that?” The ball landed between them for a gift double.
With the home crowd anticipating the Dodgers’ first offense since Friday, Ramirez hit a fly to right to advance Ellis and Adrian Gonzalez hit a cue-ball down the first base line for an RBI double.
After Andre Ethier’s grounder moved Gonzalez to third, up followed Puig, who had struck out five consecutive times. He belted a Wainwright sinker to right, and then threw both arms in the air as if he knew it was a home run. The ball, however, hit the bullpen fence, forcing the showboating Puig to run, and run hard.
The ball got away from Beltran and Puig, with third base easily in his grasp, raised both hands again as he reached the bag with perhaps the postseason’s most exciting triple and a 2-0 lead.
“I’m always having fun on the field,’’ Puig said through a translator. “In St. Louis, it was obvious that I wasn’t quite having as much fun. But coming back to Los Angeles, with the help of my teammates, I was able to get back to really having fun. In Cuba, you always see a lot of emotion on the field.”
The Dodgers threatened again in the fifth when catcher A.J. Ellis led off with a rare triple, his liner clipping off Jay’s glove. Wainwright responded by retiring the next three batters to keep the score 2-0.
Wainwright allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings with five strikeouts. In 23 postseason innings, Wainwright has struck out 20 batters with one walk.