PHOENIX -- Baseball can be a fickle profession, and nobody knows that better than Rich Hill. The Dodgers left-hander has bounced back from shoulder surgery, Tommy John surgery and reinvented himself as a starter after his career seemed finished as a reliever.Hill has had more lives in the sport than
PHOENIX -- Baseball can be a fickle profession, and nobody knows that better than Rich Hill. The Dodgers left-hander has bounced back from shoulder surgery, Tommy John surgery and reinvented himself as a starter after his career seemed finished as a reliever.
Hill has had more lives in the sport than a cat.
"You keep moving forward, you have to just keeping moving forward," Hill said on Tuesday night after he and the Dodgers lost, 7-6, at Chase Field to the suddenly resurging D-backs, who have won eight of their past nine. "Just keep going no matter what. Keep working. That's it."
In Hill's first start since losing a no-hitter, 1-0, in the bottom of the 10th inning to the Pirates at Pittsburgh on a Josh Harrison walk-off home run, he allowed six hits and five runs in the first inning. During the middle of a five hits in a row, Hill was struck by a 105-mph liner off the bat of D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
The shot smashed Hill on his left hip, and after tumbling to the ground in an effort to chase down the ball, he shook it off and pitched into the fourth inning. Both Hill and manager Dave Roberts said it was just a contusion and he should be ready for his next start.
If anything, Hill, 37, has been nothing but resilient in his career. There's no looking back. Not at his near perfect performance last Wednesday night at PNC Park. Not at his 70-pitch outing on Tuesday as the Dodgers lost three in a row for the first time since June 6. They still lead the National League West by 18 games over Arizona.
As the late Commissioner Bart Giamatti once so aptly wrote about baseball: "It breaks your heart. It's designed to break your heart."
"It was just a bad night," Hill said about his outing against the D-backs. "I was terrible tonight. Everybody else did their job. That's the way I look at it. I have to do better next time, make better pitches. It doesn't matter that I was able hang in there. I still look at it as a pretty poor performance. I'm not giving myself any slack."
Hill has had two shots at perfection in the 13 months since the A's traded him to the Dodgers: Last Sept. 10 at Miami when he pitched seven perfect innings but was pulled because of a recurring blister, and eight innings against the Pirates. Hill lost that one on an error by third baseman John Forsythe to open the ninth of a scoreless tie. The no-hitter and the game ended on the fourth pitch of the 10th.
Both were tough decisions by Roberts, a manager in only his second season, who had to balance the desires of the pitcher with the good of the team.
"You have to think about it when you're extending a pitcher in that situation and not put him in a spot that would be harmful to him," Roberts said. "For me, at that point last week, I thought for Rich to go out there for the 10th at 95 pitches would be fine. There were no stressful innings. He was throwing the baseball well. I wanted to give him a chance to throw a quick inning and be ready to go out there for a potential 11th. I thought that was only fair.
"Last year, when I took him out of the perfect game, that's when the medical staff comes in. There's the blister issue and the potential cost to our ballclub. For me, I saw no downside in pulling him out."
Hill missed a lot of the 2016 season because of the blister issue. Again, this season he spent two stints on the disabled list in April trying to negotiate the same problem on the same middle finger.
Hill said it was just toughening up the skin and making adjustments in his mechanics so he wouldn't repeat the motion of ball spinning out of his hand that caused the repetitive injury.
What Hill has done has worked. Even with the loss on Tuesday night, he is 9-6 with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 20 starts. Before losing to the Pirates, Hill had won five consecutive decisions, four of them in July when he was named the NL's Pitcher of the Month. Perhaps even more importantly, the Dodgers have won seven of his past 10 starts.
"He's done a great job cleaning up the delivery, simplifying it," Roberts said. "And he's throwing the way he was throwing last year, spotting the fastball, the breaking ball. Rick [Honeycutt] is as good a pitching coach as I've ever been around and has a way of communicating things to his pitchers. They make the right adjustments."
Hill will dig back in, and as he says, go back to work. He'll have a few days to make even more adjustments and get his timing back.
"This stinks," Hill said. "Now I have to sit on this for the next four days and get ready for the next one. I mean, you want to go out there and actually contribute."
But that's the vagaries of baseball. A near no-hitter one start, a near wipeout the next.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.