The eyes of a nation were on Hyun-Jin Ryu in his major league debut. But the South Korean left-hander figures to be more relaxed in his second start for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday at home against the offensively challenged Pittsburgh Pirates.
Los Angeles is seeking its 12th victory in 13 games against Pittsburgh, which will also send a southpaw to the mound as Jeff Locke makes his season debut.
Ryu, the first player to come to the majors directly from the Korea Baseball Organization, yielded three runs - one earned - while scattering 10 hits over 6 1-3 innings in Los Angeles' 3-0 loss to San Francisco on Tuesday. The 26-year-old said he felt the pressure of the situation, as the game was televised live in his native country.
"It was the first time I felt that in a very long time," Ryu said through a translator.
Ryu was 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA over 190 career games in the KBO and won five strikeout titles, including one last year with 210 over 182 2-3 innings. He fanned six in his debut for the Dodgers (3-2).
"He got in some tough jams and was able to get himself out," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "It was a great test for him. When he needed to make a big pitch, it was the changeup that bailed us out of some situations."
Facing the Pirates (1-4) should help put Ryu at ease. They've managed just six runs on 17 hits over their first five games, falling victim to back-to-back shutouts against Los Angeles - including a 1-0 loss to Clayton Kershaw on Saturday. Pittsburgh recorded a combined four hits against Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the Dodgers' starter in Friday's 3-0 win.
The Pirates still haven't connected for a home run - the majors' only team that can say that - and if they go homerless on Sunday it would be their longest drought to start a season since 1943. They needed 11 contests for their first homer that season, which they finished with only 42.
"We're going through a rough patch, but there's a lot of talent in the room and guys who have some pop," said catcher Russell Martin, who is 0 for 14 this season. "So I don't think we're worried about it."
Locke (1-3, 5.50 ERA) made 10 late-season starts over the last two years, but this is his first year as part of the Pirates' opening-day roster. He was solid in seven spring appearances - six starts - going 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA.
Locke started once against the Dodgers and has also faced them once in relief, allowing three runs on six hits over a combined five innings.
"I just want to go out there and perform, and impress," Locke told the team's official website.
The Dodgers haven't exactly seen an outburst of offense yet either with 11 runs in five games - a total that's tied with Miami for the majors' second-lowest. They're 6 for 46 (.130) with runners in scoring position. Matt Kemp, whose only hit in 18 at-bats this season came in Friday's series opener, is 0 for 8 in such situations.
Adrian Gonzalez was 4 for 7 in the series' first two games and is 15 for 27 with four walks in his last seven versus Pittsburgh.