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Hill stands tall as L.A.'s starters keep rolling

Despite loss to Rays, starting pitching continues a dominant run
@Sportsgal25
May 22, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rich Hill toted the tradition of strong Dodgers starts with him to the mound for Wednesday’s finale against the Rays at Tropicana Field. Just like those who’ve come before him lately, Hill did not disappoint. The left-hander allowed just one run -- a solo homer in the

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rich Hill toted the tradition of strong Dodgers starts with him to the mound for Wednesday’s finale against the Rays at Tropicana Field. Just like those who’ve come before him lately, Hill did not disappoint.

The left-hander allowed just one run -- a solo homer in the fourth inning -- over six sparkling frames, walked two and struck out seven to keep Los Angeles in the mix as long as he could before the Dodgers fell behind in the late innings and eventually lost, 8-1.

“Hill commanded the fastball very well,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. “For me, where he was at, I felt he gave it all he had. Unfortunately, in the bullpen, we didn’t get it done tonight.”

Box score

Hill had barely taken a seat in the dugout when the Rays jumped on reliever Dylan Floro, who hit the first batter he faced then allowed consecutive singles before serving up a three-run homer to Avisail Garcia that proved to be the deciding blow.

It also marked the end of Floro’s night as he was pulled in favor of Caleb Ferguson with the Dodgers trailing, 5-1. Ferguson also allowed a three-run homer before the inning was through for the final margin.

“I’m just disappointed I let the team down,” Floro said. “I mean, I come in in these situations, and they look for me to put up a zero there.”

Hill’s part of the night went much smoother, his curve sharp as ever, causing many Rays to swing and miss -- badly -- during his first two turns through the lineup. The offense stalled at an inopportune time, though, with Max Muncy providing the only run on a solo home run -- his 10th long ball of the season -- in the sixth inning.

That the 39-year-old is 1-0 with an 0.75 ERA in his past two starts and doesn’t stick out among the crowd says something about just how fierce Los Angeles’ starters have been this season. For those who need specifics, here are four numbers Los Angeles’ starting corps can hang its hat on:

1.43

Combined ERA among the Dodgers’ rotation over the past 14 games
Sure, there’ll be slips, but Los Angeles’ starters are probably the most dependable unit in baseball right now, going 10-3 over the past 14 games while allowing three earned runs or fewer in 13 of those and posting five shutouts.

21

Walks issued from the pitching staff since April 25
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Dodgers’ rotation is that there really is no good way to attack it. Those looking to draw out an at-bat long enough to earn a free jog to first are going to be even more sorely disappointed, because the Dodgers are as stingy as they come.

The number above encompasses a 26-game stretch that boils down to 0.81 walks per nine innings. For an extra parlor trick, you can throw in the starters’ strikeout totals (159) during the same time period to reveal the rotation’s impressive 7.57:1 K/BB ratio.

33

Hard-hit rate
It’s no secret that most of the time, the harder a ball is hit, the farther it’ll go and the more difficult it is to catch. Los Angeles does its part in this regard by keeping exit velocity to a minimum. Just 33 percent of balls hit against the Dodgers’ rotation have left the bat at 95 mph or faster, the best success rate in MLB, per Fangraphs.

.228

Opponents’ xBA
What do you get when you wrap the three above impressive numbers into one equation? Expected batting average, and according to Fangraphs, the Dodgers’ starters own the lowest opponent xBA in the National League, good for fourth best in baseball.

And one more number:

2

Consecutive batted balls that struck Hill in Wednesday’s finale
Need a bonus number for proof that your rotation is tough? Look no further than D. Mountain. Hill probably was wondering about his luck when he was hit by not one, but two balls … in a row. He was rolling in the bottom of the sixth with no one up in the ‘pen when Tommy Pham returned a fastball up the middle directly at Hill’s noggin.

Hill got his glove up just in time to deflect it, quickly waved off any assistance from the dugout and got back to business before the crowd could even finish oohing at the replays on the Jumbotron. No mess, no fuss.

“I just kept my glove up and [catcher] Russell [Martin] made a great play,” Hill said. “I’m glad that play [worked out].”

Unfortunately, the next item on the docket was a screaming liner from Ji-Man Choi that caromed off the hopping Hill’s right foot and to second baseman Kike Hernandez. (That didn’t slow him any, either: he sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a walk to escape the inning, ahem, unscathed).

“[I was worried about] the first one, especially … it looked like it was going somewhere near head,” Roberts said. “It came off hot.

“You never know with this game. Those balls right at the pitcher, it can be a scary thing.”

MLB.com reporter Matt Kelly contributed to this report.

Dawn Klemish is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Tampa. Follow her on Twitter @Sportsgal25.