A Blowout Is Still Just One Loss, But Dodgers Can’t Withstand Absence Of Ryu

Here’s the good thing about last night’s loss to San Francisco: As ugly as it was, baseball doesn’t award style points. One loss is one loss.

Here’s the bad thing: Everything else. Pretty much everything that came out about Hyun-jin Ryu‘s shoulder sounds awful.

There’s been some conversation that Ryu should have backed off of the start after feeling some discomfort in pre-game warm-ups, and you know that I’m almost always on board with the idea of “don’t play through pain.” This case may be a little different, however, based on this quote from Ryu via J.P. Hoornstra:

“I felt it a little bit in the warmup session before the game,” Ryu said through an interpreter. “It’s something that I normally feel. It wasn’t abnormal.”

In any case, I’m not sure it would have mattered much. Ryu was clearly off and gave up a lot of hard-hit balls, but he also had some atrocious luck both with where those grounders happened to be hit and due to having Hanley Ramirez playing shortstop behind him. If Ryu had backed out right before the game, would an emergency start from Kevin Correia (who is terrible) or Carlos Frias (who is already being wildly overrated by fans) made that much of a difference? It wouldn’t as been as ugly, probably, but it’s also not like you look at that scenario and consider the Dodgers massively more likely to have won the game.

There’s no shame in losing to Madison Bumgarner, of course, and that’s what’s important to remember here. Not that it’s okay that the Dodger offense never showed up — it’s not — but Bumgarner is a star, easily one of the top 15 or so starting pitchers in baseball. Maybe we’d have all felt better if the Dodgers showed some life on offense and lost 5-4, I’m not sure. I don’t think we’d have felt better if Ryu outdueled Bumgarner for seven innings and then Brian Wilson or Brandon League or someone blew it after that.

The point is, it’s a game. A 9-0 loss doesn’t count more than a 5-4 loss or a 2-1 loss or a 17-15 loss. It’s just one game, the Dodgers still have a one-game lead over the Giants, and they still have Zack Greinke & Clayton Kershaw lined up over the next two games. I won’t pretend that it was anything other than painful to watch last night’s mess; I also won’t pretend “the season is over herp a derp!!” because of it. The Giants are a good team, and if you really expected the Dodgers to go into San Francisco and sweep the series, then the problem is with your expectations more than the team’s performance.

What is worrisome, of course, is what this means for Ryu, who is reportedly going to meet with Dr. Neal ElAttrache today. He hasn’t yet been ruled out for his next start in Colorado (Frias would step in), but I have to imagine that based on what we’ve heard, it’s unlikely he’s taking the mound there. The step down from Ryu to Frias is a pretty big one, and I’m just talking about the regular season for now, trying not to worry too much about a potential Roberto Hernandez playoff start since it’s presumptuous to assume that the Dodgers will even have a Game 4 to look forward to or that Ryu wouldn’t be available in a month.

Though Dan Haren has been very good lately, I still don’t really trust him and his .229 BABIP over his last seven starts. If Ryu isn’t at full strength over the last few weeks, the Dodgers may suddenly have two reliable starting pitchers. They’re two of the very best in baseball, of course, but they’re still only two men. It’s a precarious situation to find yourself in.

About Mike Petriello

Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.