Ryu and Choi face off for first time in big leagues
It was a victory for the bats on Sunday as Ryu Hyun-jin and the Toronto Blue Jays took on fellow countryman Choi Ji-man and the Tampa Bay Rays at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida.
Ryu walked away with a no decision, pitching six and two third innings in the 6-4 loss. Choi, a fellow alumni of Dongsan High School in Incheon, finished the game with one hit in four at bats, a double off Ryu in the fourth inning.
The Rays entered Sunday on a nine-game winning streak, and that momentum was immediately obvious in the first inning. Ryu started things off giving up a double to Randy Arozarena, followed by a groundout and a strikeout. A single followed, driving home the runner from second to give the Rays an early 1-0 lead.
The Korean southpaw looked more comfortable in the second, picking up a strikeout to kick things off and forcing Choi to groundout for the second out. The Rays were able to add another single before Ryu ended things with a flyout.
The third passed without incident and Ryu was able to avoid any damage in the fourth despite giving up a single to Mike Brosseau and that double to Choi. Both hits came with two outs, and Choi's double was canceled out as Brosseau was caught trying to take home on the play.
Ryu gave up a homerun to kick off the fifth, but then immediately shut down the inning with a groundout and two strikeouts. There were two mound visits in the sixth after Ryu gave up a hit and a rare walk, but a five pitch strikeout to Choi ended the inning. Ryu was retired in the seventh with a runner on second and two out, leaving the game with the score tied at 2-2.
The Blue Jays added two more in the eighth to take the score to 4-2, before giving up four to the Rays at the top of ninth. Choi proved critical in that comeback, taking a walk to kick off the inning and later coming around to score on a single from Brett Phillips. The Rays worked their way through the entire lineup and it fell back to Choi to round off the inning, with a flyout for the third out. The Rays won the game 6-4.
Despite their concurrent MLB careers, Ryu and Choi have never faced each other in the majors. They both play for teams in the American League East — Choi joined the Rays in 2018 and Ryu joined the Blue Jays last year — but as Choi bats left, he isn't often up against left-handed pitchers. The pair are the second Korean-on-Korean pitcher-batter match up this season, after Kim Kwang-hyun of the St. Louis Cardinals took on Kim Ha-seong of the San Diego Padres last week.
The Blue Jays and the Rays are also now neighbors, as the Toronto club play their home games at their temporary stadium in Dunedin while coronavirus restrictions make traveling back and forth between Canada and the United States too difficult. In June, the club will be on the move again, returning to Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York, which they also used as their temporary home stadium last year.
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]