In the bottom of the third inning of last night’s game, Hyun-jin Ryu walked Billy Hamilton. Hamilton has largely been a disappointment on offense this season (he has a .290 OBP), but he’s still second in the majors in stolen bases. This walk was particularly notable because of the pitcher. Ryu has been absolutely exceptional at shutting down the running game. Despite the fact that he only has one pick-off, before last night runners had only stolen two bases against Ryu in his 256 career innings pitched. Batters had only attempted to steal against Ryu five times.
So, we had one of the best pitchers at limiting the running game against one of the best base-stealers in baseball. A fun battle was shaping up. It didn’t take long for it to start, either:
Ryu clearly knew what he was up against, and he caught Hamilton leaning. Hamilton just barely beat the tag, despite Ryu’s lack of a Kershaw-esque snap throw.
On the next pitch, Hamilton took off, just the sixth steal ever attempted against Ryu:
Ryu threw a fastball. Drew Butera came up with the pitch quickly and fired it to second base. His throw was a tiny bit high, but Gordon got the tag down quickly. It was extremely close; Hamilton is tagged and touches second base in the same frame of the GIF. He was ruled safe, and two runs went on to score before Ryu recorded the final out of the inning.
Moments later, in the top of the fourth inning, Dee Gordon reached base on a single. Gordon leads the majors in steals, but like Ryu, Johnny Cueto is excellent at shutting down the running game. Cueto has only thrown 529 innings since 2011, but he’s picked off 12 batters in that span, the ninth-most in baseball (Clayton Kershaw leads the majors with 28). During that period, baserunners have attempted to steal 22 times against Cueto. Only six have been successful, an incredible 73% of the runners caught.
So, another intriguing batter/pitcher battle, almost immediately after the first one. How did this one go?
Not well, despite the fact that Gordon wasn’t even leaning. Neither outcome was favorable for the Dodgers, but little moments like these two sum up why I love baseball so much.
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