“Korean Monster” Ryu Hyun-jin (36) has been pushed back one day to make his final start of the 2023 regular season. He will be replaced by Japan’s Yusei Kikuchi (32-over Toronto Blue Jays). With just three games remaining in the regular season, Toronto is also in a position to clinch the wild-card race.
MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, announced the change in Toronto’s starting rotation on Monday. The Jays will play their final three-game homestand against the Tampa Bay Rays from Sept. 30 through Oct. 1. The original starting order was Ryu Hyun-jin on Sept. 30, Kikuchi on Oct. 1, and Kevin Gausman on Oct. 2. However, Toronto swapped Ryu and Kikuchi’s spots.
Toronto manager John Schneider and the front office did not disclose the exact reason for the swap. However, local media indirectly revealed the reason. According to Canadian outlet Sportsnet, “Toronto is in a position to make the postseason, and Schneider wanted Kikuchi to make the first start of the series. Hyun-jin Ryu’s start will be pushed back to Game 2,” adding that “Kikuchi is having the best year of his career.”
As local media reported, Kikuchi is having a career-high season in 2019, going 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA in 31 games in his fifth season in the majors. Ryu hasn’t been bad either. After undergoing elbow ligament splicing surgery (Tommy John surgery) last year, he returned in August and went 3-3 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts.
While that’s not a huge difference in performance, Toronto is concerned about Ryu’s recent outings against Tampa Bay. On April 24 against Tampa Bay, Ryu pitched his worst outing since returning from the disabled list, allowing five runs on seven hits (three homers), four walks (three wild pitches and one hit-by-pitch) and two strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. He induced just four swings and misses, and Tampa Bay hitters responded to Ryu’s slower pitches, which topped out at just 89.4 miles per hour (143.9 kilometers per hour), with 11 hard-hit balls (well over 95 miles per hour). Three of those were home runs, and it was the first time in 758 days since Aug. 27, 2021, at home against the Chicago White Sox that Ryu gave up three or more home runs in a major league game.
As it turned out, Ryu and Tampa Bay were not on the same page. Prior to Thursday’s game, Ryu had faced the Rays five times with a 2.55 ERA and no wins. Tampa Bay is one of seven teams Ryu hasn’t gotten a win against since entering the majors in 2013.
Kikuchi, who is having one of his best seasons this year, hasn’t fared well against Tampa Bay either, going 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts. However, unlike Ryu, Kikuchi has been very good at striking out batters. However, the same lefty still throws a fastball that averages over 95 miles per hour and has excellent command, with a slider as his deciding pitch, striking out 177 batters in 162⅔ innings. Even against Tampa Bay this season, he struck out 21 batters in 15 innings. Ryu’s slower pitches don’t match up well with Tampa Bay hitters, who are traditionally known for their ability to make sophisticated contact.
The tightening American League wild-card picture also favors Toronto, which has a slight edge in the standings. Earlier in the day, Toronto beat the New York Yankees 6-0 behind Chris Bassitt’s 7⅔ innings of five-hit, one-run ball with 12 strikeouts. With 88 wins and 71 losses, the Jays are in third place in the American League East and the second wild-card spot, one game behind the third-place Houston Astros and two games ahead of the fourth-place Seattle Mariners.스포츠토토
Toronto is the favorite, but it’s too early to rest on its laurels. Houston has a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle has a three-game series against the Texas Rangers, and the standings could change at any time if either team drops a game. Seattle, with three games in hand on defending World Series champion Texas, looks the most unfavorable, but they are coming off a thrilling 3-2 comeback victory in the bottom of the ninth inning on J.P. Crawford’s game-winning hit with the bases loaded.
Heading into the three-game series, baseball fans are eager to see how Toronto’s decision to swap Kikuchi and Hyun-Jin Ryu’s starting days will play out. Kikuchi will pitch on Sept. 30 at 8:07 a.m. and Ryu will pitch on Oct. 1 at 4:07 a.m. at Rogers Centre.