Hill's comeback both historic, compelling
BOSTON - Rich Hill's comeback as a starter has become as historic as it is compelling.
Here are just some of the factoids that have accompanied his comeback.
• Hill is the first pitcher since 1900 to strike out 10 in his first three starts immediately following a gap of five-plus years since his previous start.
• Hill is the only pitcher in the last 100 years to strike out 10 in his first three starts for any American League team.
• Hill is the first Major League pitcher since 1900 to make his season debut in September or later and have 10 strikeouts in his first three starts.
• Hill is just the fifth pitcher in Red Sox history to have double-digit strikeouts in three straight games, joining Pedro Martinez (several times), Roger Clemens (three times), Jon Lester (twice) and Ray Culp (1968).
• He is the only Red Sox pitcher in the last 100 years to have three straight starts of at least seven innings with 10-plus strikeouts and zero or one walk.
"Ten strikeouts in three straight outings is a pretty impressive number, and I know that I was reading some stuff today that [Red Sox public relations staffer] Jon Shestakofsky sent out and he's in some elite company with that type of run that he's been on," said Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo. "It's real. It's not happening because the hitters are overlooking Rich Hill. They're gameplanning for him and they still can't figure out what he's doing."
So, what is Hill doing?
"I think the swing and miss is mostly because of his ability to command the fastball with a little bit of deception," Lovullo said. "When he smells a strikeout when he has two strikes on you, he is finishing off the hitter. You can tell, when he gets two strikes, he is on the mound, ready to finish you off. So there's a strikeout mentality that he has developed."
Hill is mixing his well-placed heaters with curveballs that look almost unhittable. And the lefty is dropping down in his delivery, making the pitch hard to reach for lefties.
"When a left-handed hitter sees a drop in the zone and the ball is near the zone and around the zone, it's a great weapon," Lovullo said. "He's dropped down a couple of times to right-handed batters too. He's just locked in to the point where he feels like he can deliver any pitch from any angle at any time, and that's a product of how hard he's worked."
Thursday at Yankee Stadium will mark Hill's fourth and final start since being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket.
Perhaps the Red Sox will find a roster spot for Hill in 2016.
"In my personal opinion, you're always looking for this type of pitching. He certainly deserves some consideration," Lovullo said. "What happens, what part of my opinion matters inside of the meetings, I'm not sure of. But you've got to love what he's done."