“I didn’t go out,” he said. “But it won’t be an easy night to play baseball. “
It certainly was not. A strong low across northeast Ohio on Friday brought rain and high winds, creating waves 8 to 11 feet off Lake Erie and placing the state under a gale warning that suspended ferry service and canceled Memorial Day weekend festivities. At the first step, the temperature dropped below 10 degrees Celsius, which was much colder thanks to a strong wind blowing at 40 km / h from the right central field.
– Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 29, 2021
It set the stage for a wet and hit-or-miss affair the Blue Jays did well to come out of with an outright 11-2 win. Considering the conditions, in which infielders would shake hands off their gloves after trapping hard ground players and outfielders re-enacting Family Circus cartoons every time a ball was struck in the air , a win without anyone getting hurt was the best possible result.
And calling the game long-winded after a needless half-hour late in the seventh inning – the mound was so slippery Blue Jays reliever Trent Thornton went running down it at the end of his delivery – was the best decision for all concerned.
“When you’re a batter, you can hang out in the dugout. And luckily there were heaters. So you can hang out and then go straight to home plate, ”said Blue Jays infielder Joe Panik, who scored 4-for-4, driving in 3.“ But when you’re on the field and you you just stand there no matter if you have a hand warmer in your back pocket or not. you, it’s going to be wet. it’s going to look like a cue ball, basically. So it’s just a matter of mentally sticking with it. Because we knew the weather was going to be bad. I didn’t know it was gonna be this lousy. But you try to stay on the ground. “
It was all a challenge. You could see him in the first inning of Teoscar Hernandez on the right, who came out of his bat at over 90 mph but was pushed back to the infield, causing Cleveland outfielder Josh Naylor to charge in to trap a ball he expected to finish much deeper than he did.
You could see it on Hyun-Jin Ryu’s uniform, as the cloth whipped and tugged at the Blue Jays starter’s chest as he looked for signs of the mound. You could see it on Amed Rosario’s face, as he squinted in the breeze and blew into his hands after resisting the cold reverberations of fouling from Ryu’s back-to-back changes.
And you could see it in Ryu’s stuff, which didn’t quite land where he wanted it in that first run. For a slender pitcher like Ryu, extreme wind can cause all kinds of difficulty, making the difference between placing a pitch right on the edge of the strike zone and well outside of it. Ross Stripling battled something similar in a disastrous outing earlier this month in Boston, when a strong breeze caused his change to cut the plate in the happy zone of a left-handed hitter, rendering the land unusable.
It could be said that this also gave Ryu a hard time with his change, as he left the throws of the first inning to Cesar Hernandez and Jose Ramirez, who both took advantage of the hits, before walking Harold Ramirez on five throws to charge. the basics. Then he missed his position in a change for Eddie Rosario, who turned him to the right, conceding two. A batter later, Ryu paced his second five pitches of the inning, missing the zone on feet rather than inches.
This stuff just doesn’t happen. Forget walking two in a run – Ryu hadn’t walked two in a game all season. He came into the night after throwing 54% of his 2021 pitches in the zone, a top 30 mark in the MLB. He had started 63% of his home plate appearances with a strike. As of 2019, only one MLB starter – timekeeper Zack Greinke – has a lower walk rate than Ryu’s 3.9%.
Even the field Ryu eventually escaped the inning – his 32nd from the frame, a 1-1 lead to Yu Chang who grabbed a lot of the plate – was not perfectly situated. But Ryu broke into first baseman foul territory, where the ball caught and buckled and whirled in the wind, forcing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to spin before finally putting it in his glove.
“In the first run, I struggled a bit. And if I told you that the weather didn’t affect me at all, I would be lying, ”Ryu said via interpreter Jun Sung Park. “I don’t think I’ve ever had to plant in such severe weather conditions. “
Fortunately, the wind was blowing when Cleveland pitched as well, and that helped the Blue Jays tie the game in the second – after Randal Grichuk’s first single came on a sacrifice sacrifice, another single and a field – as as center fielder Ramirez came in on a flying ball Danny Jansen to left center who carried and carried and continued to carry on his head. Most of the time, it’s an easy third withdrawal. But on that one, it was a brace and an RBI for Jansen, erasing the lead Ryu had given himself.
Either way the wind is blowing pic.twitter.com/perIU4bM6P
– Blue Jays de Toronto (@BlueJays) May 28, 2021
Of course, as Ryu returned for his second run of work, it started raining from the side. The wind was just picking up. There were legitimate reasons to wonder why the game was being played.
But Ryu had a baseball in his hand, a hitter at the plate and a referee behind allowing him to continue play – so he made an adjustment. Ten of the next 12 shots he threw were pellets or cutters, as Ryu put less emphasis on his low speed shots and relied on his higher speed options to get him through. a round three and three down.
And at the top of the third, the Blue Jays began timing Cleveland starter Eli Morgan – a 25-year-old making his MLB debut – as they watched him for the second time, jumping on the changes left over. the plate, lifting balls into the outfield and letting the elements do their best.
Morgan had the same issues with his side stuff that Ryu had, and paid for it dearly like Hernandez (single thrown when trying to stretch to a double), Grichuk (double), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (double) and Joe Panik. (homer circuit)) all of them caused damage against soft grounds that Morgan couldn’t locate where he needed it. Suddenly the Blue Jays were up four.
– Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 29, 2021
It gave Ryu a cushion in the middle of the sleeves to continue to lean on tough things – well, hard on him. Ryu’s speeds were actually well below all levels, as he averaged 86 mph with his lead and crimper (Ryu’s season average is 89.5 mph) and 83 mph with his cutter (average of the season 85.3 mph), as the winter cold undermined how fast it is. But the approach worked, as he only faced one on the second set minimum at the end of his outing after the fifth.
“In the first run, I noticed that my command was a bit out of place. I walked two guys, I found myself in difficult situations. So in the second run, I just wanted to make sure I got a head start on the score and make sure I shut the guys down as soon as possible, ”said Ryu. “Anyway, I still managed to do five innings. So, I am quite happy with the result.
In the end, 58 of the 91 shots Ryu threw were sinkers, cutters, or all four seams (and 37 of 59 after the first inning), as he essentially put his break ball aside and ran long. distances without using its change at all. This is what veterans do with large repertoires – they know when to make adjustments and have the ability to take them out of the game.
And they find ways out, even on miserable days with diminished stuff. Ryu’s change, the four seams, the cutter and the curved ball all have puff rates above 21% this season, helping him to land double-digit strikes in six of his first nine outings. But he only generated six puffs that night, which makes it even more remarkable that Ryu racked up six strikeouts in his five innings, allowing just those two runs in the first.
“From the first inning, you could tell that – even as an infielder throwing the ball – it was going to be a smooth baseball for him, relying so much on movement and his throws out of speed,” said Panik. “For him, shutting them off and really getting into cruise control after that first run was huge. It let our alignment do the job. I knew from the start that it wasn’t going to be easy for any pitcher. But that’s why he’s Ryu. That’s why he’s our ace. No matter the conditions, he will find a way for us. “
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays began to beat the Cleveland relievers box after chasing Morgan out of the game, tackling three runs in the fifth thanks to a two-run Gurriel that doubled the third baseline, followed by a simple Panik served gently in the left center. Santiago Espinal added a few more in the sixth, and in the seventh, the two managers emptied their benches, saving their stars from the elements and the possibility of injury. Moments later, the referees removed everyone from the field.
The game was not pretty. It didn’t sound like much fun to play. And, at the end of wet, cold, and windy three hours and 32 minutes, everyone seemed happy enough to cancel a few rounds earlier. It’s baseball in late May next to Lake Erie. Never complain about the roof of the Rogers Center again.
“It was mean there,” Montoyo said. “It’s slippery, it’s windy. The wind is blowing everywhere. This is why Ryu deserves a lot of credit. It was not easy to launch like that. He couldn’t take control from the start because it was so mean. But then he regrouped. And that’s what an ace does. He did an excellent pitch job under these circumstances. ”