TORONTO – Old-school pitching duels, you know, when two starters trade zeroes deep into a game, each waiting for the other to buckle, are increasingly rare in today’s game, which is what made Wednesday night’s faceoff between Hyun-Jin Ryu and Max Fried so much fun.
The two lefties imposed their wills on a productive opposition lineup with relative ease, working both quickly and efficiently to keep things moving along at a breezy pace. Games like this on the regular would alleviate commissioner Rob Manfred’s pace-of-play concerns.
The Toronto Blue Jays, of course, would sign up for dozens more just like this one, especially since Ryu gave them a seven-inning outing for just the second time this season in a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves fuelled by a pair of Teoscar Hernandez home runs.
Ryu, making his second start since returning from a minor glute strain, was at his crafty best, throwing his fastball, changeup, cutter and curveball almost equally over 94 pitches, routinely leaving the Atlanta hitters shaking their heads.
The only damage against him came in the fifth, when William Contreras caught a changeup at the knees and swatted it over the left-field wall.
The Blue Jays quickly erased that in the sixth when Cavan Biggio opened with a walk, stole second when Ryu struck out and scored when Marcus Semien doubled into left-field corner. That was all they could manage off Fried, who was lifted in the bottom half for a pinch-hitter, and Hernandez greeted Luke Jackson with a solo home run to open the seventh.
Tyler Chatwood delivered another key leverage inning in the eighth – getting Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna without issue – and then Hernandez added on against Josh Tomlin in the ninth when he cashed in a Bo Bichette single with his second homer of the night.
A.J. Cole mopped up in the ninth as the Blue Jays improved to 5-0 against Atlanta heading into their final regular-season meeting Thursday afternoon, when Ross Stripling starts against Charlie Morton.
Hernandez’s big blows were obviously pivotal, but Ryu’s seven innings again set the stage for the late rally, much as Robbie Ray’s six innings did in Tuesday’s 5-3 victory.
The Blue Jays enjoyed just one outing of seven innings last season, that one also by Ryu. The veteran lefty also delivered seven frames April 7 at Texas, but the rotation has delivered only 10 outings of at least six innings this season in total.