A headline on Major League Baseball's website this weekend described Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu as the game's "most under-the-radar ace."
Ryu generated national attention and built anticipation throughout a dramatic afternoon in Dodger Stadium on Sunday, coming within five outs of a no-hitter against the Washington Nationals before Gerardo Parra one-hopped to the left-center-field wall for a double with one out in the eighth inning.
Ryu settled for eight innings of one-hit ball in which he struck out nine and walked one, and Corey Seager busted open a close game with his second career grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 6-0 Dodgers victory before 45,667.
Ryu, who threw a season-high 116 pitches, 79 for strikes, improved to 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA, establishing himself as an early front-runner for the National League Cy Young Award.
He got a rousing standing ovation after Parra, who hit a game-winning grand slam against the Dodgers on Saturday night, smacked a 90-mph fastball into the gap for his double and an even louder ovation as he walked to the dugout after the inning.
"It's interesting how you look at Hyun-Jin now as a little bit of an outlier in baseball because of the pitch mix – he doesn't light up the radar gun," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the game, when asked about the marquee pitching matchup between Ryu and Washington's Stephen Strasburg.
"The execution is high end as opposed to just beating guys in the zone with stuff. With Strasburg, you're gonna see 97-98 mph and a really good changeup, but with Hyun-Jin, it's more methodical, and it's fun to sit back and watch it."
Had Ryu completed the no-hitter, it would have been Dodgers right fielder Cody Bellinger who delivered the gem-saving play.
Strasburg appeared to notch the Nationals' first hit with one out in the sixth when his line drive toward the right-field line bounced well in front of Bellinger.
But Bellinger, who nearly lost Wilfer Difo's fly ball in the sun in the fifth, fielded the ball on one hop and fired a 92-mph strike to Max Muncy at first base for an out that was upheld after a 1-minute 5-second instant replay review.
The closest the Nationals came to a hit through five innings was a line drive that Kurt Suzuki hit right at third baseman Justin Turner in the second and a fly ball by Anthony Rendon that sent left fielder Joc Pederson to the warning track in the seventh.
Ryu's no-hit bid nearly ended in the fifth when Difo hit what appeared to be a routine two-out fly to medium right. Bellinger fought the sun for the entire time the ball was in the air, thrusting his glove hand above his head to shield his eyes and crouching like a catcher as he made the difficult catch.
Washington got its only other baserunner in the fourth inning when Ryu issued a rare walk to Brian Dozier after falling behind 3-and-0. It was only Ryu's third walk this season – compared to 54 strikeouts – and his first at home since he walked San Diego's Franmil Reyes on Aug. 26, 2018, a span of 66 1/3 innings and 10 starts.
Ryu retired the next 12 batters before Parra's hit.
The Dodgers did not have a hit off Strasburg through three innings, but they did have a run. Bellinger led off the second with a walk and got a huge jump to steal second base. Bellinger took third on Alex Verdugo's grounder to second.
The Nationals, knowing Seager's struggles at the plate – the shortstop entered Sunday with a .225 average, two homers and 12 RBIs – and the quality of Ryu's stuff through two innings, brought their infield in. Seager responded with a sacrifice fly to deep left field to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.
Turner delivered the Dodgers' first hit, a soft single to center field with one out in the fourth. Turner took third on Bellinger's single to left-center, with Bellinger advancing to second on the throw.
Verdugo followed with a chopper over the mound that the 6-foot-5 Strasburg could not reach with a leap off the mound. Second baseman Dozier made a nice grab and off-balance throw to first for the out, but Turner scored for a 2-0 Dodgers lead.