Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Los Angeles Dodgers hurled 31 scoreless innings in a row and his streak includes a no-hit bid, inevitably thwarted by the Washington Nationals in the eighth inning.

Hyun-Jin Ryu Dodgers
Hyun-Jin Ryu of the LA Dodgers pitching against the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. (Image: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

During his streak, Hyun-Jin Ryu lowered his ERA to 1.52 and his WHIP to 0.74. Only Justin Verlander and Chris Sale have a better WHIP than Ryu.

On Sunday, Ryu threw seven scoreless innings and scattered five hits against the Cincinnati Reds to extend his streak to 31 innings. In the start before that, Ryu had a no-hitter bid going into the eight innings against the Washington Nationals, but they spoiled his bid for a no-no. He settled for a one-hitter over eight innings. And in his start before that, Ryu threw a complete game shutout yielding only four hits.

Ryu, a 32-year old lefty from Korea, is playing in his sixth season in the majors. He has been remarkable after returning from a groin injury last season. His ascension is one of the reasons the Dodgers (32-17), along with a red-hot Cody Bellinger, are the best team in baseball.

Chasing Candy Cummings

In nine starts this season, Ryu is 6-1 with 59.1 innings and the Dodgers are 7-3 in his starts. With the exception of a hiccup early in the season at St. Louis, he’s been near flawless.

Ryu leads a stacked rotations that includes Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Kent Maeda. Maeda is 5-2 with a 1.19 WHIP, Buehler is 4-1 with a 1.05 WHIP, and Kershaw is 4-0 with a 0.98 WHIP.

Everyone expected Kershaw or Buehler to lead the team in wins and strikeouts. Ryu leads the Dodgers with 59 strikeouts. That’s impressive for a guy who is not a flamethrower like his teammates. But who cares how many guys who whiff so long as he’s giving up a walk in every other start.

His 22.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio makes fantasy nerds drool. It also makes pitching coaches ecstatic.

Ryu gave up only two walks during his 31-innings scoreless streak. He’s allowed just four all season. Yes, that is not a typo. Only four.

“I definitely try to stay on top of it,” said Ryu. “Because ever since I started playing baseball, that was the one point of emphasis growing up: to not give up walks.”

Ryu is chasing a record that dates back to the 1870s. Candy Cummings holds the all-time record with a 20.50 strike/walk rate back in 1875 for the Hartford Dark Blues. Cummings went 35-12 that season with 82 strikeouts and 4 walks.

Pulling a Maddux

It seemed fitting that Ryu pulled a Maddux against his former team the Atlanta Braves. A “Maddux” is when a pitcher throws a complete-game shutout in under 100 pitches. Ryu needed only 93 during his gem. The Dodgers easily won 9-0, but Ryu allowed just four hits and zero walks.

Ryu throws multiple pitches (fastball, cutter, changeup, curveball, and sinker) at various speeds and locations.

“He doesn’t have any consistent tendencies,” said Dodgers hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc. “He knows how to pitch, he knows how to change speeds, and I think he reads the hitters very well. Even if he has a plan, he’ll deviate from it. There’s just not anything consistent about how he attacks each guy.”

He’s become unpredictable, which drives batters crazy in an era of Big Data and hot zones. Opponents are going up to the plate guessing and missing.

Long Strange Trip: Korea to Hollywood

Ryu played in the Korean Baseball League for seven seasons for the Hanwha Eagles. He won 98 games and had a 2.80 ERA. The Dodgers acquired him the Hanwa in late 2012.

In 2013, Ryu had an impressive start with the Dodgers. He won 14 games in each of his first two seasons in the MLB.

However, he was hampered with a shoulder injury and missed the entire 2015 season. When he finally returned in the middle of the 2016 season, Ryu pitched one start before he returned to the injured list with an elbow problem. The Dodgers shut him down and operated on his elbow. He returned in 2017 put posted a 5-9 ERA.

During the 2018 season, Ryu injured his groin and missed a couple of months. In 15 starts, he went 7-3 with a 1.97 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. Ryu went 1-2 in the postseason last year as the Dodgers lost in the World Series for a second-consecutive season.

If Ryu can remain healthy, then the Dodgers will certainly be one of the teams to beat in the World Series when October rolls around. Not too many teams made the World Series three straight times, and even fewer have actually won it after losing twice in a row. Ryu can help the Dodgers fade history.