LOS ANGELES- He was asked to succeed where Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, both of them Cy Young Award winners, had failed.
He was asked to prevent a loss that would put the Los Angeles Dodgers into a 0-3 playoff hole - a hole from which only one team in baseball playoff history, the 2004 Boston Red Sox, had successfully emerged.
He was asked, in short, to save the season.
Aside from that, and the fact that he was a rookie, and the fact that this was just his second career postseason start, and the fact that his first postseason start was a disaster, and the fact that he understands so little English that a translator has to accompany manager Don Mattingly to the mound to discuss stuff with him . . .
Aside from all that, there wasn't much pressure on 26-year-old South Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu Monday night in front of a Dodger Stadium sellout crowd of 53,940.
"Realistically, you feel like it's a must-win game," Mattingly admitted after the game. "This is one of those games that if you can get a win and get some momentum on your side, you feel you're back in the series."
The Dodgers are back in the series. They can thank their rookie pitcher, who outpitched playoff veteran Adam Wainwright and threw seven scoreless innings in L.A.'s 3-0 victory.
With Dodgers hopes fully on his shoulders, Ryu was up to it.
"I just told myself this could be the last time I start here this season," Ryu said afterward. "From the first pitch, I just zoned in and I was able to get a good result."
A great result, actually. Seven innings. Three hits, none until the fifth inning. No runs, a walk, four strikeouts.
"He came out with great energy, and that was a key for us," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "From the first pitch, he was lighting up the radar gun. He was dominant all game."
The first pitch was a 93 miles-an-hour fastball to Matt Carpenter. So was the second pitch, which Carpenter lofted to left field for the first out.
Then Carlos Beltran, who had been the offensive difference in the series so far, worked a 0-and-2 count to 3-and-2. Ryu responded with a 95 miles-an-hour fastball, but missed, and Beltran took first.
The walk put Ryu squarely in the sights of the Cardinals, who knew of Ryu's first-inning troubles this season. In 30 regular season starts, he had a first-inning earned-run average of 5.10. And in his only other playoff start, nine days ago against the Atlanta Braves, he gave up two runs in the first and two more in the third and was gone after that.
So, with Beltran on first and Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina coming up, the Cards had every reason to believe Ryu would fold.
He did not. He got Holliday to fly out to right field and got Molina to look at a called third strike, and he was out of the first inning.
The second, third and fourth innings produced no Cardinal threat at all - in fact, no hits at all.
"We couldn't get anything going," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He controlled the counts. He controlled the plate. He did what he wanted against us."
Then, in the fifth, the Cardinals opened with singles by David Freese and Matt Adams, the first two hits off Ryu. Then, Ryu and the Dodgers got a break. The Cardinals' Jon Jay lined softly to shallow left, where Carl Crawford made the catch and doubled off Daniel Descalso, a pinch-runner for Freese.
Ryu wasn't in trouble again until Molina singled to center with one out in the seventh. Descalso followed with a groundout to bring up Adams, a dangerous power hitter.
Mattingly went to the mound, along with a Korean-speaking translator. Ryu's pitch count: 103.
Mattingly talked, listened, turned and walked back to the dugout.
Ryu, whose fastball had slipped by then to 90-91 mph, went right after Adams, striking him out on a 1-and-2 four-seam fastball.
"When he came out, I felt completely fine," Ryu said of Mattingly. "Obviously, when he walked away and gave me the green light to go after the last batter . . . whenever you feel that kind of a trust from your manager, it motivates you to make sure you commit and get that out."
Actually, he got the first 21 outs. Brian Wilson got three, and closer Kenley Jansen got three.
But on this night, it was the first 21 that mattered.
In this series, star hurlers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and Adam Wainwright have taken the mound and failed to win.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, the man on the spot, took the mound Monday night and won.
And made it a series.