Hyun-Jin Ryu spent years viewing Fenway Park through television screens, whether in his home country of South Korea or in the United States, where Ryu has been an major league pitcher since 2013. Finally, the lefty got a glance at Fenway’s historic grounds when the Dodgers landed in Boston on Sunday.
A certain wall caught Ryu’s eye.
“My initial reaction to the Green Monster is, it’s very tall,” he said through a translator Tuesday.
Ryu is fresh off recording perhaps the quietest season with a sub-2.00 ERA in baseball history. He started just 15 games, missing more than three months with a left groin strain suffered May 2. When Ryu was healthy, he was an absolute force.
Ryu’s 1.97 ERA trailed only the Mets’ Jacob deGrom in the National League. Among NL pitchers with at least 15 starts, he ranked second in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.93), fifth in WHIP (1.01), and fifth in opponents’ on-base percentage (.260).
Ryu, 31, was even better after returning from the DL Aug. 15, throwing 52⅔ innings and striking out 53 against just five walks.
The only split that may concern Dodgers fans ahead of Ryu’s start in Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday is the southpaw’s numbers at home versus on the road. Ryu was 5-2 with a 1.15 ERA in Dodger Stadium, as opposed to 2-1 with a 3.58 ERA away from Los Angeles.
“Yeah, he’s thrown considerably better at home,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, “but just the way he’s throwing the baseball, we feel confident he can go out there and put up a quality start for us [Wednesday].”
Ryu was left off Los Angeles’s World Series roster last year against Houston.
“Last year, because I couldn’t make the roster, I was more cheering for my teammates and making sure that they’re in their best moods,” said Ryu. “This year I actually have to go out there and perform.”
This October, Ryu received his first taste of playoff ball since 2014. The results have been mixed. He pitched seven sterling innings of scoreless ball in Game 1 of the NL Division Series against Atlanta, was mediocre in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series against Milwaukee, and self-combusted in Game 6 to the tune of three innings and five runs. Ryu said control was the issue at Miller Park, and that he’ll have to be far more precise at Fenway.
“Looking back at it, if I actually commanded all of my offspeed pitches to get ahead in the count, I think there would have been a different result,” he said. “Obviously [Wednesday] I’m going to use all of the pitches that I can throw and try to command the pitches better.”
Magic Johnson, one of the Dodgers owners, arrived at Fenway Park 2½ hours before the first pitch with his wife, Cookie.
“All these years coming to Boston to play and this is my first time here,” the NBA legend said. Johnson, 59, joined with Guggenheim Partners in 2012 and was part of a successful $2 billion bid for the Dodgers.
There was no sign of Larry Bird, unfortunately.
The Dodgers made just one change to their roster ahead of the World Series. Los Angeles dropped rookie lefthanded reliever Caleb Ferguson in favor of another southpaw, reliever Scott Alexander.
Alexander appeared once in the NLDS, pitching a scoreless inning and allowing no baserunners in a Game 3 loss. Alexander was replaced by fellow lefthander Julio Urias in the NLCS against the Brewers. Urias, who spent the majority of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, proved his worth, throwing on back-to-back days and allowing just one run in 3⅓ innings to nudge his way onto the World Series roster.
On this date in 1945 — Oct. 23 — Dodger executive Branch Rickey announced the signing of Jackie Robinson . . . This marks the Dodgers’ 20th World Series appearance, and the 11th since moving to Los Angeles following the 1957 season. In their previous 19 trips, the Dodgers are 6-13 in the Fall Classic, with an overall record of 48-64 . . . The Dodgers hit a franchise-record and NL-best 235 home runs in 2018. Los Angeles boasted seven players with 20 or more homers, the most in franchise history and the most ever by an NL club.
Owen Pence can be reached at email@example.com.