LOS ANGELES -- If it's any consolation to the slice of Twitterverse that excoriated Rich Hill Wednesday night, he's not arguing with you.
"Bad outing," said Hill, who walked a career-high seven while losing to the Cardinals, 6-1. "I take full responsibility for that. Gave them the game. It's unacceptable. It's really a tough thing to swallow."
Manager Dave Roberts said Hill felt plate umpire Rob Drake was squeezing him on pitches at the top of the strike zone. Roberts also said he would "dig into" the possibility that Hill's notorious middle finger blister was at the core of his curveball inconsistency, although Hill said his finger was fine.
"The finger is no issue," he insisted. "No, I was just terrible. Honestly. It's just embarrassing. I mean, there's no issue with the finger. I'm completely healthy. That's all I can really say about that."
Blister or not, Hill (1-2, 4.76 ERA) was clearly chafed on the mound. He questioned Drake's calls several times, and before the start of the third inning, Drake intercepted Hill at the mound before he could start his warmup throws to try to defuse the clash with a brief talk. Roberts was clearly annoyed that his veteran came so unglued.
"I know he's an emotional pitcher, but you've got to compose yourself in some capacity and still execute pitches," said Roberts. "It wasn't about execution, it was continue to focus on executing and not get too frustrated by the strike zone. I'm just so accustomed to seeing Rich with command of curveball. He can really manipulate, and today he had no feel. Changing arm angles, but couldn't find any consistency tonight."
So in addition to the emotion, Roberts suspects Hill's finger might be at least partially responsible, even though Hill was pitching on two days of extra rest, as the club continues to shuffle starting pitchers around. Hill made 82 pitches, 40 strikes and 42 balls.
"Just my intuition watching his curveball command," Roberts said of his suspicions. "I didn't hear anything outside of we got through it. I'm just trying to wrap my head around it, and I think even some curveballs that were borderline at the top of zone, knowing the shape of his curveball, those aren't finished curveballs. I just want to dig into that a little more."
Roberts was also at a loss to explain how Hill had so much trouble in the second, third and fifth innings after opening the game with a five-pitch first inning and retiring the Cardinals in order with a pair of strikeouts in the fourth, only to open the fifth with a four-pitch walk to Stephen Piscotty.
Roberts did speculate on why Hill might have been wound as tightly as he seemed to be.
"When you don't feel you're as sharp as you can be or have been in the past, every pitch that's close you feel you need and when you don't get those pitches it kind of ramps up your frustration a little more," he said. "We all know what Rich can be in recent history. At the forefront is keep the blister at bay and now pitch well. I'm confident he will. This guy is ultra-competitive. He's got them again in St. Louis and he'll be ready to go."