Ryu feeding off LA’s intra-staff competition

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Kenta Maeda did pretty much the same thing the day after the Darvish acquisition, firing seven scoreless innings on two hits to beat the Braves on Tuesday.

“It’s not surprising in the sense that they see what we have in the clubhouse and they know what they’re capable of,” manager Dave Roberts said of the unofficial competition, because when Clayton Kershaw returns to join Darvish, Alex Wood and Rich Hill, there won’t be room for both Ryu and Maeda. Then there’s the postseason to consider, as the Dodgers have a commanding 15 1/2-game lead in the National League West.

“When we’ve done what we’ve done to date and to make the acquisitions we’ve made, those guys want to step up even more. And it makes sense, beyond Kenta, but Ryu as well and the other three starters. These guys are very good competitors. Ryu has pitched well in the big leagues. He’s healthy and confident. Some of those best staffs throughout history feed off each other. They compete with opponents, but also compete with themselves.”

Ryu struck out eight without a walk on Sunday, retiring the last 15 batters he faced after Travis d’Arnaud‘s clean single leading off the third inning. Ryu is 4-6 with a 3.53 ERA, but has a string of 15 consecutive scoreless innings and is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA over his last six starts.

“I feel like my command is the reason I’m having such success,” said Ryu. “The last two starts, my fastball and offspeed pitches I’m able to command the way I want to. In terms of my velocity, it’s very respectable, so combining those two reasons, I’ve been having a good run.”

Ryu didn’t argue with his manager about the intra-staff competition.

“Our team expects nothing but winning,” he said. “As a starting pitcher, I’m trying to do my job, put the team in position to win or at least within striking distance. I try to work as hard as my teammates.

“We have very good starting pitchers, and competition is actually good for us because all of us are working hard to stay in the rotation. This has led to good results for the team and for myself, so I feel good about it.”

Ryu was staked to a 3-0 lead before he took the Citi Field mound, which he didn’t mind at all.

“Nothing can beat that feeling as a starting pitcher, being on the away team and knowing you have a three-run lead,” he said. “It’s probably the best feeling a pitcher can have.”

Roberts said he was glad d’Arnaud’s hit removed the decision of whether to let Ryu go for a no-hitter. He was taken out after 96 pitches and hasn’t thrown more than 105 after missing most of the past two seasons with arm operations.

“That’s a question for Doc [Roberts], but as a pitcher coming back from two years of injury, I’m pretty sure he would have pulled me out,” Ryu said.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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