Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu finds himself right back at the same place and in another big moment as when the regular season started.
The team’s top offseason acquisition will take the mound Wednesday in Game 2 of the American League first-round series against Tampa Bay with the rival Rays holding a 1-0 lead.
The second contest in the best-of-three series has a 4 p.m. (TBS) first pitch in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Blake Snell and three relievers shut down Toronto’s high-powered offense Tuesday’s series opener, 3-1 — holding the visitors to five hits — and the Blue Jays hope Ryu can level the short series.
Though new to the AL after pitching six seasons for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League, Ryu has become familiar with Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Tabbed by manager Charlie Montoyo as the Opening Day starter, Ryu got a no-decision on July 24 after pitching 4 2/3 innings and allowing three runs in Toronto’s 6-4 victory.
He returned there Aug. 22 and worked five strong innings — allowing three hits and one run with six strikeouts — and received another no-decision as Toronto lost 2-1 in 10 innings.
The Blue Jays signed Ryu to a four-year, $80-million contract in the offseason, hoping the 2019 NL ERA leader would serve as the anchor for a spotty pitching staff on a club built around rising young stars.
Ryu (5-2, 2.69 ERA) slid right in at the top of the rotation and helped lift the Blue Jays (32-28) to a third-place finish in the AL East behind the Rays and New York Yankees.
In a surprising move, Montoyo flipped the top two in his rotation — the South Korean southpaw and right-hander Matt Shoemaker — to open the series against the AL-best Rays, who went 40-20 during the abbreviated season.
Ryu became the first Toronto starter to toss seven innings Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Yankees — a 100-pitch effort that put the club back into the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
“To be one of the best teams in baseball, we’re going to have to be creative,” Montoyo said Monday, “so we’re giving our ace an extra day off.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash will send out hard-throwing right-hander Tyler Glasnow (5-1, 4.08), who didn’t face the Blue Jays this season and is 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA in six career starts against them.
Glasnow was co-leader in victories among the Rays’ pitchers with at least five starts, as he and rookie Josh Fleming each recorded five, and the 6-foot-8 pitcher was simply overpowering much of the time with a high 90s fastball and nasty 12-6 curve. The California native notched two double-digit strikeout performances, fanning a season-high 13 over seven innings in a 4-2 win over Baltimore on Aug. 25. He also struck out eight or nine in six other starts.
Over his 11 outings, Glasnow whiffed 91 batters in 57 1/3 innings. His total ranked fourth in the AL behind Cleveland’s Shane Bieber (122), the White Sox’s Lucas Giolito (97) and New York’s Gerrit Cole (94). His strikeouts per nine innings (14.3) topped Bieber’s (14.2) but Glasnow didn’t work enough frames to qualify among the league leaders.
The Rays, who have won 41 games, have now held opposing clubs to two runs or fewer 22 times this season.
“You like to find ways to separate games at times,” said Cash, “but if you’re not, you’ve got to play really clean baseball. Tonight was a pretty good representation of the Tampa Bay Rays and how we go about winning games.”
–Field Level Media