TORONTO — Hyun Jin Ryu added some velocity to his pitches and it led to his first win of the season.
Ryu gave up six hits, five of them doubles, but didn't allow a run over six innings as the Toronto Blue Jays held on for a 2-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Friday. His four-seam fastball topped out at 92.9 m.p.h. in the win, with it hitting over 91 m.ph. four other times in the game, well above his average of 90.
"As a guy who can have command on his change-up and fastball, (velocity) is how I can attack the hitters," said Ryu through a translator. "If I'm able to keep that up, I think that's just gonna continue to grow."
Ryu gave up six runs over 3 1/3 innings in his first start of the season on April 10, then five runs over four innings April 16. He showed improvement on May 14 when he allowed just one in 4 2/3, an eventual 5-1 win for Toronto in Tampa Bay. Friday's win dropped his earned-run average from 9.00 to 6.00.
Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said that Ryu gaining velocity has helped his past two starts.
"When he throws 90, 91, that fastball explodes more in the zone and it's tougher to hit," said Montoyo. "Then, of course, the key has been throwing his breaking pitches for strikes to keep hitters off balance."
George Springer and Bo Bichette each drove in a run to back up Ryu's performance.
Santiago Espinal stretched his career-best hit streak to 13 games for Toronto (21-18), but Vladimir Guerrero Jr., saw his end at 15.
Ryan Borucki, Adam Cimber, Yimi Garcia and Jordan Romano came out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays. Romano, from Markham, Ont., earned his 13th save of the season.
Matt Reynolds had an RBI single for Cincinnati (11-27). Luis Castillo (0-2) had five strikeouts but allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings. Hunter Strickland and Art Warren combined for two innings of scoreless relief.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who grew up in Toronto's west end, got a warm ovation from the 29,300 in attendance at Rogers Centre when he led off the second inning.
"It meant a lot," said Votto, who returned to Cincinnati's lineup after spending more than two weeks on the COVID-19 injured list. "You never expect that and, if you make the mistake of spending too much time with it, they’ll shut it down quick and then let you know where you fit it.
"It was great, it meant a lot. Thank you to them."
Espinal was moved up to fifth in the Blue Jays' batting order by Montoyo for the game.
Espinal rewarded Montoyo's faith in the fourth inning with an infield hit to Castillo, which the Toronto second baseman legged out for a single. He would add another single in the eighth.
"We've been talking about our offence not hitting, but he's the one guy who's been a constant, a guy that's been having good at-bats the whole time," said Montoyo.
Springer broke the scoreless tie in the fifth inning, stroking a single past a diving Reynolds at second base. The basehit scored Bradley Zimmer, who had doubled in the previous at-bat.
Bichette followed that up with a double down the left-field line, bringing Springer home from first for a 2-0 Toronto lead.
The Reds answered back in the seventh, putting runners on the corners. Reynolds came to the plate with two out, putting a single just over a jumping Espinal's head to score Mike Moustakas.
Cimber was on the mound for the play but the run was charged to Borucki, who had put Moustakas on base when he hit him with a pitch to start the inning.
Romano came on in the ninth to close out the game, his first appearance since May 14 as he overcame a gastrointestinal infection. He induced two groundouts and a pop fly to earn the save.
MAYZA NEARS RETURN — Left-handed reliever Tim Mayza will throw on either Sunday or Monday as he works toward a return to Toronto's bullpen. He was placed on the 15-day injured list on May 16 retroactive to May 15 with forearm inflammation.
RATED R FOR RESTRICTED — Four Reds players were put on the Cincinnati's restricted list on Friday due to their COVID-19 vaccination status. Former Blue Jays infielder Brandon Drury, outfielder Albert Almora, as well as pitchers Joel Kuhnel and Tyler Mahle will all miss the series in Toronto.
NEXT UP — Alek Manoah will take his 4-1 record to the mound for the Blue Jays in Saturday's matinee against Cincinnati. The Reds counter with Hunter Greene (1-6).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2022.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press