Third time the charm?

The Dodgers will be sending Rich Hill to the mound for the third time this postseason, and for the 3rd time, they will be hoping for some semblance of the pitcher who wowed them in early September.  It is almost as though when Dave Roberts pulled Rich Hill from his perfect game on Sept 10th 2016, he took his mojo with him.

Hill was clobbered in his next start on Sept 15th, 2016, and was not allowed to pitch very much after that for fear he would be unable to pitch in the postseason. Everything was geared to making sure that Rich Hill could pitch in October, but so far all that babying hasn’t paid much of a dividend.

In Rich Hill’s first three starts as a Dodger, he went got 18, 18, and 21 outs while giving up zero runs in any of those games. Here was the number two pitcher the Dodgers had sought. It was almost too good to be true.

Because it was.

Dates | Starts | IP/Out | Runs
Aug 24 – Sept 10th | 3 | 19/57 | 0
Sept 15th – Sept 30th | 3 | 15/45 | 7
Postseason | 2 | 7/21 | 5

The Dodgers only used Rich Hill for three starts after his near perfect game. Over the last twenty days of the regular season, Rich Hill made three starts getting 16, 15, and 15 outs. The zero ERA was long gone.

Still, there was guarded optimism when Hill made his first start against the Nationals. There was hope that the babying would pay dividends and a healthy Hill would be able to follow Kershaw and give the Dodgers a great one, and a nice two.

In his first start against the Nationals he struck out the side and everything looked rosy, but by the end of the second inning it was apparent that Rich Hill was struggling.  Hill gave up a single and a walk, but also had struck out Rendon for his 4th strikeout. With two on and two out he was facing the second weakest link in the National lineup, Danny Espinosa who Kershaw had used to get out of jam after jam the day before. Instead of getting Espinosa out, Hill hit him, loading the bases for Jose Lobaton. This time, Hill escaped serious damage by enticing Lobaton to hit into a DP.  In the 3rd Hill struck out the side again, though he did give up a single to Trea Turner. With three innings in the books, Hill had struck out seven of his first nine outs. That had never been done before and if the games ended in the 3rd inning Rich Hill would have been famous. But baseball needs 27 outs, not nine, and Rich Hill went from being in the Dodger records books to just another Dodger pitcher who couldn’t get at least 15 outs. Hill gave up a lead off single to Murphy  but got two fly balls bringing up that Espinosa kid again. And once again instead of getting the weak hitting Espinosa out, Rich Hill hit him.  This was almost like the second inning when Hill faced Lobaton with the bases loaded and two outs, except this time it was only 1st and 2nd.  One curve ball later the weakest link Lobaton had hit a three-run home run. Luckily for Hill he had the pitcher up next and got him for his 12th out.  Hill came out for the fourth and gave up a single to Turner, a single to Harper, and a single to Murphy. Pedro Baez came in and got a DP to save Hill from further damage.

So, it wasn’t simply a hung curveball to Jose Lobaton. Besides the strikeouts, it was a pretty lousy effort. Hill gave up four runs in four innings, and it could have been much worse without two fortuitous double plays.

Rich Hill got his second start on only three days rest and it was hoped he could give the tired bullpen at least four or five innings. There were no expectations of six or seven innings. Just give the team five innings. He gave them 2 innings and two outs. He left with two runners on and two outs before Joe Blanton came in and got Rendon for the 3rd out. In two starts the bullpen had left four of his inherited baserunners on base. This game would end up being one of the greatest postseason games ever for the Dodgers, but Hill didn’t play much of a part other than making the bullpen earn the victory.

Now we wait for Rich Hill to make his 3rd start. Another start in which it is imperative that Hill goes at least five innings. This is the first of three games in a row, and tomorrow is being pitched by Julio Urias who has to max out at five innings.

When your choices for the next three postseason games are:
1. A guy you were afraid to pitch most of the time you had him because of his blisters
2. A 20-year-old who hasn’t started a real game since Sept 2nd
3. A guy who clearly looks done

That doesn’t look good, but you only have to look at what the Indians are doing to the Blue Jays to feel good about the Dodger chances. They have Kluber, we have Kershaw. They got nothing but mirrors after that, and that is what the Dodgers have.  Maybe all you need are mirrors instead of Arrieta / Lackey / Lester.



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