LOS ANGELES -- Hyun-Jin Ryu got a big smile on his face when someone asked him if he was used to being asked to stop losing streaks.
“Yes,” Ryu said through an interpreter. “There were a few times.”
Ryu’s team in the Korean Baseball Organization, the Hanwha Eagles, finished with a losing record in each of his last four seasons there. It got so bad in 2009 and 2010 that some fans took to calling them the “Hanwha Chickens.”
The Los Angeles Dodgers can only hope Ryu won’t be pitching under similar circumstances here, but so far things haven’t exactly panned out.
On Saturday, Ryu helped the Dodgers take a little step back from the brink, a 7-1 win over the woeful Miami Marlins that snapped L.A.’s eight-game losing streak.
“You could almost feel like it was champagne-time in there,” said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.
If winning one out of nine is worthy of a celebration, the Dodgers could be in trouble. But if they are looking for signs that they could get rolling in the other direction, Ryu gave them one Saturday.
Perhaps he ignited a little brush fire that could lead to something bigger.
Zack Greinke will be back soon, maybe as early as Wednesday. The Dodgers could then have three starting pitchers, including Clayton Kershaw, as good as any trio in the National League. That appears to be Dodgers fans’ best hope at this point.
There is magic in a dominant trio of starting pitchers. Glavine-Maddux-Smoltz? Seaver-Koosman-Ryan? Hudson-Mulder-Zito? Kind of depends on what generation you’re from. It might take that kind of magic to get the Dodgers to the postseason at this stage.
Not that Mattingly would even entertain such ideas Saturday, after the ringer his team has been through in the first six weeks: an endless string of injuries, underperforming veterans and the like. But perhaps he could start to envision the outlines of a way out.
“You start to see what it could be,” Mattingly said. “This is what it’s supposed to look like.”
When Ryu walked off the mound in the seventh inning, Dodger Stadium was as loud as it had been in weeks, as if 42,000 people were yelling, “Thank you.” The Dodgers hadn’t won here since April 30. Ryu was on the mound that day, too.
Ryu would qualify for the NL Rookie of the Year award, though he pitched seven seasons in Korea. “I actually do feel like a rookie,” he said Saturday. But he in no way resembles one. He doesn’t have Kershaw’s velocity or breaking ball or Greinke’s versatility, but he can baffle a lineup with his wiles.
“He’s kind of a master craftsman in a sense,” Mattingly said. “He locates, changes speeds, takes a little more off. When he’s sharp, it’s fun to watch.”
There you have it: the rookie master craftsman. Might be a bit of a contradiction, but the Dodgers aren’t sticklers these days if they can get a win.