Over the All-Star break, I gave Hyun-jin Ryu a ton of credit for being a consistently reliable member of the starting rotation, while at the same time worrying about what his second half would look like. After all his velocity was dropping, his performance had begun to slip a bit, and giving up four earned runs and 11 baserunners in 5.1 innings in his first start of the second half on Monday didn’t help. (Not that anyone noticed, since the Dodgers scored 14 runs to get him the win.)
I’m still not sure what Ryu is going to bring us over the final two months, but I do know that if only for tonight, he absolutely could not have been better. Ryu struck out nine — realize that he’d struck out nine over his three previous starts for the entire month of July — over seven outstanding innings, allowing just two hits and a walk. His night was spoiled only momentarily by allowing a solo homer to Jay Bruce in the second inning, but that was basically it; Ryu left after the seventh having retired 13 in a row. (Including quality relief from Ronald Belisario, Paco Rodriguez, & Kenley Jansen, Dodger pitching retired the final 19 Reds.)
Now, the way things have been going lately we’d probably be all “okay Ryu was fine but dinger this and dinger that” because this offense has generally been absurd. (Absurd in a good way, not in a “the Giants had the bases loaded and no outs against the Cubs in the 8th inning and scored zero runs in a 0-0 game before former Giant Nate Schierholtz hits a homer off of Sergio Romo” sort of way, which, delicious.)
But despite the fact that Bronson Arroyo wasn’t exactly sharp, that’s not how things went tonight. In the first inning the Dodgers had two walks, a stolen base, and a double, yet the team managed just one run. That’s how it stayed until the fifth when Skip Schumaker stepped up — that’s him floating around the bases up above — and absolutely destroyed a ball to dead center field, scoring two. We should really take note of that, because there was nothing cheap about it. It’s not easy to hit a ball out there, and Schumaker got all of it.
Two innings later, Schumaker doubled to center, this time off Alfredo Simon, and came in to score the final run of the game, more than enough to push the Dodgers to seven games over .500. (Despite several stupid baserunning mistakes. We’re not going to talk about that right now.)
So let’s recap: the Dodgers win again, this time finding offense from a bench player and a great starting outing from their third (arguably fourth) best pitcher. The Giants are losing in an excruciating manner. The Diamondbacks got blown out 12-3 by San Diego, pushing the Dodgers to 1.5 games up. The Phillies got crushed 10-0 by Detroit, which helps for those still holding out hope they’ll see Cliff Lee or Chase Utley.
Wow, things just could not be going better right now, could they? I’m terrified. Excited! But terrified.