Hill of beans
Rich Hill, much maligned by some Dodgers fans because of his blister problems, almost did something historic on Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Going into the bottom of the ninth, he was three outs away from pitching nine perfect innings. Unfortunately, the Dodgers hadn’t scored a run, so it was a scoreless tie. Meaning he would have to pitch at least 10 perfect innings to be credited with a perfect game.
The issue became moot when third baseman Logan Forsythe fumbled Jordy Mercer’s leadoff grounder. One error, no perfect game. But still a chance for a no-hitter. Hill retired the rest of the Pirates in order in the ninth. The Dodgers failed to score in the top of the 10th. Would Manager Dave Roberts let Hill go past the ninth inning?
He did, and Hill marched to the mound, with his place in history very close. Josh Harrison led off for the Pirates. Home run. No-hitter over. Shutout over. Game over.
In the aftermath, there were only words.
“Sad for Rich,” Roberts said.
“He threw a hell of a game. It hurts,” catcher Austin Barnes said.
But in an era of seemingly so many selfish athletes, Hill had an amazing reaction to his bad luck.
“I don’t really think of luck. Tomorrow, you put in the work, and it’s a new day. You just keep moving forward. That’s all there is. Sometimes, luck is disguised as that.”
“It falls on me, on this one. One bad pitch…. Late in a game like that, you have to make better pitches.”
“I try to keep everything as simple as possible, and don’t think of it as anything bigger than what actually is going on. We lost a ballgame. That’s it.”
"I try to keep everything as simple as possible and don't think of it as bigger than it is. We lost a ballgame. We have something bigger than any individual going on here. We're in it for the delayed gratification, not the instant gratification."
Those of you who wondered if Rich Hill had mental toughness because you thought he should pitch through his blisters, now you have your answer.
Also about Hill
The other fascinating thing about Wednesday’s game was that Roberts sent Hill out to pitch the 10th inning. This is the same Dave Roberts who removed Ross Stripling and Hill from games while they were pitching no-hitters last season.
On April 8, 2016, Roberts pulled Stripling in the midst of a no-hit bid with one out in the bottom of the eighth in San Francisco. Stripling, coming off of Tommy John surgery, had reached his 100-pitch limit and had just walked a guy. The Dodgers led 2-0 and reliever Chris Hatcher surrendered a two-run homer in a game the Dodgers lost 3-2 in extra innings.
On Sept. 10, 2016, Roberts pulled Hill after he pitched seven no-hit innings against Miami. The Dodgers had a 5-0 lead and Hill had been struggling with blisters since the team acquired him. He was feeling some warmth where his blister had been, so Roberts took him out, with the playoffs correctly deemed to be more important than an individual goal. The Dodgers won that game.
So why leave Hill in to pitch 10 innings this time? A couple of reasons. One, Hill had thrown only 95 pitches going into the 10th, and the arbitrary benchmark baseball has for some reason decided is the point of no return for pitchers is 100 pitches. Hill felt strong and his velocity was still good. The bullpen has been used heavily over the last few days, and Kenley Jansen was unavailable Wednesday because his arm needed a day off. Plus, in this magical season, didn’t you think he was going to get the no-hitter?
Was it the right move? Well, Roberts and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt have access to much more information than we have at home, so I’m going to believe that they know what they are doing.
Of course, if Hill develops a blister today …
Right now, the Dodgers have three starting pitchers: Hill, Hyun-jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda. They have five starting pitchers on the DL: Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir. Of course, if the Dodgers were in a heated division race, the odds are that Kershaw and Darvish would not be on the DL right now.
So there’s really no reason to panic. Everyone should be healthy by the time the playoffs get here.
Is it me, or does the Dodgers offense feel a lot weaker without Cody Bellinger? They are still scoring runs (except for Wednesday), but it seems to be a struggle. I guess that’s what happens when you remove your biggest power threat from the lineup. It’s just been so long since the Dodgers had a power threat like Bellinger, it feels like they lost three players from the lineup instead of one.
The Dodgers are 76-21 in games in which Bellinger appears. When he doesn’t play, they are 14-15.
Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .194/.235/.355 since he returned from the DL. If he continues this type of hitting, he should be on the bench when Bellinger returns.
The one thing I forgot about Gonzalez is how painfully slowly he runs. He’s so slow, that you can hear the “Chariots of Fire” theme when he runs.
Comparing this year’s Dodgers team at this point in the season with the teams that posted the best records in Dodgers history (since 1901).
2017: 90-36, .714
1942: 87-39, .690 (finished season 104-50, .675, did not make postseason)
1941: 81-45, .643 (finished season 100-54, .649, lost World Series to Yankees)
1955: 81-45, .643 (finished season 98-55, .641, won World Series over Yankees)
1974: 79-47 .627 (finished season 102-60, .630, lost World Series to Oakland)
The Dodgers are on pace to finish with a 116-46 record.
Their magic number to clinch another NL West title is 15.
Ask Ross Porter
Lyn Klodt asks: Has this Dodger team, Ross, ever had a losing record, and how far out of first place have they been?
Ross: Yes, Lyn. In April, the Dodgers had a record of 10-12, and were five games behind. They were in third place on June 1. Entering play Wednesday in Pittsburgh, the Blue Crew had won 54 of their last 64 games (.844) and 79 of 102. (775) . Between June 7 and July 19, they were 31-4. (.885). Beyond phenomenal.
Ross: That kind of trade is usually not final until the end of the season. The Mets had a chance to decide which position they wanted to strengthen and had more time to evaluate five to 10 agreed-upon Dodger minor leaguers. However, the Mets have already selected pitcher Jacob Rhame, who has been in triple A the last two years. Rhame had to clear waivers before he was dealt. If he couldn't, the Dodgers would have had to wait until the season was over. If the transaction had not been completed in six months, Shawn, the teams would have had to decide on a price.
Vincent Martinez asks: Why do two umpires go to the headsets when a review is called?
Ross: The calling umpire and the crew chief (or second-most senior umpire on the crew if the crew chief is the calling umpire) get headsets from a technician behind the plate. The crew chief is responsible for communicating with the replay official in New York who makes the final decision. The calling umpire is to relay information to the press box and PA announcer after which he joins the communication with New York. Two umpires serve as a safeguard against miscommunication. (Courtesy of Gil Imber, Close Call Sports)
Glenn Strickler asks: Ross, what are the rules for a ball hitting an umpire in the field or a player making contact with an umpire while fielding or running the bases?
Ross: Whenever an umpire is hit by a batted ball and is positioned behind the infielder, the ball remains in play and no interference is called. If an umpire is hit by a thrown ball, the ball always remains alive and in play. If the second base umpire is struck by a batted ball on the infield side of second, the ball is dead and the batter is awarded first base. All other runners advance only if forced. There is no call to make, Glenn, if a player makes contact with an umpire while fielding or running the bases.
Friday, 7 p.m. PT, Milwaukee (Chase Anderson, 7-2, 2.83) at Dodgers (Kenta Maeda, 11-5, 3.88)
Saturday, 6 p.m. PT, Milwaukee (Zach Davies, 14-7, 4.09) at Dodgers (Ross Stripling, 2-4, 3.41)
Sunday, 1 p.m. PT, Milwaukee (Jimmy Nelson, 9-6, 3.79) at Dodgers (Yu Darvish, 8-9, 3.83 overall, 2-0, 2.50 with Dodgers)
Note: Pitchers are subject to change
Hill's nearly perfect game is spoiled by a television blackout. Read all about it here.