LOS ANGELES -- Should the Los Angeles Dodgers win Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Friday night, they will turn to Hyun-Jin Ryu to pitch the game that could send them into their first World Series in 25 years. Kind of a big deal, right?
“I’d definitely have to put it in the top three most important games I’ve pitched," Ryu said through his interpreter.
That might sound a tad flippant, but it might also be true. Ryu has already pitched two postseason games -- one bad, one good -- but the most impactful games in terms of his life and lifestyle came years ago in international play. He helped the South Koreans win a gold medal at both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Asian Games.
By doing so, players on those teams were exempted from two years of military service. That’s a big deal in South Korea, where the military protects a tense border with North Korea.
Ryu looked nervous pitching in the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves and later admitted the nerves affected his performance. In Game 3 of the NLCS, he was able to slow the game down and pitched seven shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals, allowing just three hits.
Which Ryu will show up Saturday, assuming he actually has the opportunity to pitch?
“When I went back on the mound knowing that I had one game under my belt, I felt much more comfortable,” Ryu said. “Preparing for tomorrow, I’m not even going to think about that game against Atlanta.”