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Surprise starter Ryu sparkles as Dodgers take opener

The Associated Press

Dodgers starter Ryu Hyun Jin fires a pitch in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday in Los Angeles.

The Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Dodgers made a surprising and much dissected decision to start Ryu Hyun Jin over Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

Swell choice.

The South Korean left-hander pitched seven dominant innings and Los Angeles launched three home runs to beat the Atlanta Braves 6-0 on Thursday night.

Ryu delivered in his first postseason start since 2014. He allowed four singles — all with two outs — struck out eight and walked none.

“He was in control. There was a lot of soft contact,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He was doing what he wanted to do. It was good to see, and we needed that one.”

The only slip Ryu made was when he mistook the second out of the fourth inning for the last out and started walking toward the dugout. He laughed upon realizing the gaffe.

The 31-year-old Ryu missed 3½ months of the season with a groin strain and returned Aug. 15 to post a 1.88 ERA in 52⅔ innings.

“When he came back we weren’t sure who we were going to get,” teammate Enrique Hernandez said. “It seemed like he didn’t miss a beat.”

Dodgers great Sandy Koufax was among those who gave Ryu a standing ovation as he walked to the dugout after his final pitch.

“I’m happy that I was able to keep my promise that I would go full-throttle from the get-go,” Ryu said through a translator.

Ryu even collected his first career postseason hit with a single in the fourth.

The Dodgers set franchise and National League records by hitting 235 homers during the regular season, and their tear continued with three more to begin their playoffs. The defending NL champions actually were outhit 6-5 by Atlanta, but the Braves only got singles.

Game 2 in the best-of-five matchup is Friday at Dodger Stadium, with Kershaw starting for Los Angeles against Anibal Sanchez.

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