ATLANTA -- The latest injury to strike the Los Angeles Dodgers is literally a pain in the rear.
A strained right buttock muscle forced starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu to make a sixth-inning departure from the Dodgers' 3-2 defeat to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night at Turner Field.
Though Ryu said he didn't think the injury was serious, he acknowledged he didn't know if he could take his next turn in the rotation.
"A little too early to tell," he said through an interpreter.
Manager Don Mattingly was also uncertain, saying, "I'd just be guessing."
Mattingly said he expected Ryu to undergo an MRI examination and visit team physician Neal ElAttrache after the Dodgers return to Los Angeles on Thursday night.
"It sounds like day to day at this point," Mattingly said.
The Dodgers are five games ahead of the second-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West, but A.J. Ellis said he was concerned about the possibility of losing Ryu for any period of time.
"We're all hopeful, fingers crossed, that Hyun-Jin will make that next start because he's a huge part of our success and where we're headed," Ellis said.
Ryu is the clear-cut No. 3 starter in a rotation that includes two of the best pitchers in baseball, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
Ryu was charged with three runs and six hits over 5 2/3 innings Tuesday night and absorbed the loss. Still, he is 13-6 with a 3.28 earned-run average. He won his previous four decisions and the Dodgers had won each of his last five starts.
Of the team's lead over the Giants, Ellis said, "I don't think we're at that cushion stage yet. We're still on the building phase."
The Dodgers have a day off Monday, meaning that if Ryu can't face the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, Roberto Hernandez could replace him and pitch on regular four-days' rest. Another option would be to start recently acquired swingman Kevin Correia, who limited the Braves to one run over six innings in a spot start Monday.
The injury to Ryu came suddenly.
With the Dodgers trailing, 3-2, Ryu started the sixth inning by forcing Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons to ground out.
Up came B.J. Upton.
At some point in the nine-pitch at-bat, Ryu felt discomfort in his backside.
"I thought I could pitch out of it, but it kept getting worse and worse," he said.
Mattingly figured something was wrong.
"We saw a couple pitches where he looked a little bit funny," he said.
Mattingly recalled pitching coach Rick Honeycutt looking over at him and asking, "Is he all right?"
Upon walking Upton, Ryu called to the bench.
"I knew that's never a good thing," Ellis said.
Ryu was replaced by Jamey Wright.
Ryu said he regretted not calling sooner for the trainer. He said he was somewhat concerned about his condition because he had never sustained a similar injury.
Ryu was comforted by the fact that his discomfort was concentrated in his buttock and didn't extend into his hamstring. An examination by head trainer Stan Conte appeared to confirm what he felt.
"I don't think it's very serious right now," Ryu said.
The defeat was the Dodgers' first in six games against the Braves this season. The Dodgers swept the Braves at Dodger Stadium at the end of last month and won the first two games of the current series, which concludes Thursday.
BRAVES 3, DODGERS 2
KEY MOMENT: Trailing by a run, the Dodgers threatened against All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning, loading the bases with one out. With two on and one out, Adrian Gonzalez hit a line drive that fell inches in front of Justin Upton in left field. Upton could have thrown out Andre Ethier at third base, as Ethier didn't know if the ball would drop and was caught in no-man's land between second and third. Upton instead threw to second, where Dee Gordon beat the throw, loading the bases for Matt Kemp. However, Kemp, who had struck out three times, grounded into a double play to end the game.
AT THE PLATE: The Dodgers went ahead, 2-0, in a five-hit second inning that included run-scoring singles by Carl Crawford and Miguel Rojas. But the Dodgers didn't score again. Crawford remained hot, going two for four with a run scored. Gordon and A.J. Ellis also had two hits.
ON THE MOUND: Hyun-Jin Ryu was charged with three runs and six hits over 5 2/3 innings before he departed from the game with a strained buttock muscle. Ryu absorbed the loss, his first since July 8. Jamey Wright pitched the remaining 2 1/3 innings for the Dodgers and didn't give up any runs. Wright's earned-run average is down to 3.05.
EXTRA BASES: Infielder Chone Figgins was released. Figgins, who batted .217 in 38 games for the Dodgers and was a mentor to Gordon, was designated for assignment last week. ... Triple-A right-hander Stephen Fife, who made one major league start this season, underwent reconstructive elbow surgery. Fife is expected to return in 14-18 months. ... Left-hander Colt Hynes, who was designated for assignment Sunday, was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays.
UP NEXT: Roberto Hernandez (6-8, 3.83) will face Aaron Harang (9-6, 3.31) and the Braves at Turner Field on Thursday at noon EDT.
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