On Wednesday night, Rich Hill became the first Major League pitcher to lose a no-hitter on a walk-off home run. He should have had a perfect game victory, but the Dodgers couldn't capitalize on countless scoring opportunities. A 10th-inning homer that barely cleared the left-field wall by Pirates second baseman
On Wednesday night, Rich Hill became the first Major League pitcher to lose a no-hitter on a walk-off home run. He should have had a perfect game victory, but the Dodgers couldn't capitalize on countless scoring opportunities. A 10th-inning homer that barely cleared the left-field wall by Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison destroyed Hill's special night.
Hill understood that homer was a part of baseball, but watching the Dodgers lose their 36th game in 2017 was one of the most difficult losses in the last 40 years for Dodger fans.
Clayton Kershaw's 2014 no-hitter against the Rockies is considered one of the best-pitched games ever, but Hill's masterpiece was equally impressive. Whereas no one will forget Kershaw's no-hitter, not many people will remember Hill's performance because it won't be in the history books.
Hill is a journeyman left-handed pitcher from Massachusetts. Nothing has come easily for Hill during his career. Most people would have stopped chasing the dream of being a Major Leaguer if they had gone through what Hill has, but Hill has persistence. He doesn't think failure is harmful. He thinks not having a dream is harmful.
On Wednesday, the Dodgers needed innings from Hill. In the first two games in Pittsburgh, the Dodgers bullpen had pitched 13 innings. The Dodgers have four starters -- Kershaw, Alex Wood, Brandon McCarthy and Yu Darvish -- on the disabled list. Knowing that he needed to conserve pitches more than normal, Hill utilized his ordinary fastball more than usual, so he induced soft contact. The Pirates were completely baffled by the 88-91 mph dart that painted the black of the strike zone. His curveball helped to continue to mystify the Pirates.
Hill lives with his control. If he has bad control, he usually has a terrible outing, lasting a few innings. When he doesn't walk many, he is one of the best left-handed starters in the Major Leagues. He didn't come close to issuing a walk until the ninth inning.
Yes, Hill relied heavily on his defense. Chase Utley and Adrian Gonzalez made sensational defensive plays to preserve the perfect game. In the ninth, John Forsythe, playing third for the resting Justin Turner, misplayed a ball that turned into an error, ruining Hill's bid for a perfect game.
Last September against the Marlins, Hill had a perfect game after seven innings but had to come out since he was developing a blister. This time Hill was better and healthy. If the Dodgers could have capitalized on a scoring opportunity given to them by Trevor Williams, Hill would have had a no-hitter at least.
During his career, Hill has faced much adversity. Though he debuted in 2005 with the Cubs, Hill's time in Chicago was plagued with control problems. He was traded for a player to be named later just before the 2009 campaign to the Baltimore Orioles. In Baltimore, he had back problems. He spent the next three seasons in Boston, but was had Tommy John surgery and shoulder problems. As late as the middle of the 2015 season, Hill pitched for an independent baseball team. The Red Sox needed a pitcher, and they turned to Hill. While back in Boston in 2015, a pitching coach advised Hill to make his fantastic curveball his primary pitch. Since then, Hill's ERA is the second lowest ERA in the Majors, next to Kershaw.
After being traded to the Dodgers, Hill was magnificent in 2016 and helped his new team through the National League Championship Series.
His 2016 performance earned him the first lucrative contract of his career. In Spring Training 2017, another blister limited Hill. Although he could begin the season on the roster, he couldn't pitch most of April because of his blister issues. He developed some mechanical flaws affecting his control. Since he was better out of the stretch, team president Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi encouraged Hill to abandon his windup. Instead of abandoning it entirely, Hill modified the windup, adding to his control. In July, Hill was named the National League Pitcher of the Month. His dominance has continued in August.
Though watching Hill lose a perfect game and no-hitter was depressing, hopefully, the Dodgers will reward Hill with a world championship in October.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at email@example.com.