Dodgers find their thrill in Richard Joseph Hill
By Jon Weisman
Sweetly, sometimes softly, Rich Hill mixed his pitches, his curveball surveying the scenic route, his fastball sufficiently startling.
And a team starved for starting pitching suddenly has had two superb outings this week from left-handers.
With six shutout innings, Hill duplicated the Sunday feat of Julio Urías — not to mention Hill’s only previous appearance at Dodger Stadium, in 2007 — and the Dodgers edged the San Francisco Giants, 1-0.
Justin Turner’s fourth-inning home run broke Johnny Cueto’s no-hitter, shutout and (presumably) heart, and made the efforts of Hill and four relievers stand up.
The Dodgers (71-55) won their fourth straight, boosted their lead over San Francisco in the National League West to a season-high three games, and are actually closer to potential playoff opponent Washington (73-53) than they are to the Giants.
In terms of a playoff spot (i.e., the second Wild Card), the Dodgers have a five-game cushion over Miami, with the Giants and Cardinals in between. Los Angeles evened the season series with the Giants at six wins apiece with six games remaining.
Making his first competitive appearance since being sidelined by a blister problem July 17, the 36-year-old Hill silenced the Giants on 81 pitches, allowing five singles (and a trio of warning-track flies), while walking none and striking out three. He retired the last eight batters he faced.
Hill’s strikeout of Brandon Crawford to end the top of the first inning had the Dodger Stadium crowd oohing, as they got their first taste of what the hype about Hill since his trading-deadline acquisition has been about.
“This is the first chance I had to see him in person and up close, and as much energy as there was in the ballpark tonight with the fans, Richy even raised that level of intensity and focus,” Dave Roberts said.
“To go six innings, not having pitched in over six weeks, the command wasn’t perfect, but just the will — he willed himself through six innings. And we came out of it unscathed, and it gave us a huge boost.”
Not counting the day he was hurt and couldn’t throw a pitch, Hill has seven straight quality starts with a 1.21 ERA since May 13. Asked how much the blister affected him at all tonight, Hill replied, “None – it’s 100 percent. There’s no issues there.”
“Mentally felt great, body feels good,” Hill said. “Just being able to stay consistently pitch-to-pitch in the moment is extremely advantageous, and the play from the guys behind me was incredible. And (Yasmani Grandal) did a great job back there and stuck to the routine, and it worked out in my favor.”
After Pedro Baez and Adam Liberatore combined to take care of the seventh, Joe Blanton withstood yet another fly near the wall (by Crawford) to end the eighth. Kenley Jansen brought the victory home with the save in the ninth, and in the process tied Jim Brewer for the Dodger record for career strikeouts by a reliever with his 604th.
The last time the Dodgers beat the Giants by a 1-0 score was July 20, 2011, a night that Clayton Kershaw struck out 13 in eight innings. This was only the second one-run game the Dodgers have played in the past month, and they’ve split the two.
Adrián González extended his hitting streak to 17 games, but Corey Seager’s ended at 14.