Prior to the season starting, Los Angeles would gladly take the situation it’s currently sitting in.
The Dodgers are two wins away from the franchise’s first World Series title since 1988. In order to accomplish this feat, Los Angeles won’t be relying on stalwart Clayton Kershaw, or high-priced rental Yu Darvish.
Instead, the hopes for a championship currently sit on the shoulders of journeyman Rich Hill.
The 37-year-old native of Boston has had an unconventional road to the highest level. Inconsistency and injuries stemmed what looked like a promising career. He’s bounced around eight different Major League organizations, and even had a stint with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League.
In 2016, Hill broke out with the Oakland Athletics — earning a spot in the rotation. The Dodgers nabbed him before the trade deadline as the centerpiece of a relatively large trade. Since then, he’s been a staple within the rotation.
While he’s pitched multiple times in the postseason, Tuesday night’s clash with the Houston Astros will be the biggest game of his career.
Though the series isn’t over yet, it likely will go down as one of the most crazy, topsy-turvy, insane, and entertaining baseball match-ups we’ve ever seen.
Hill’s job isn’t going to be an easy one — as Houston possesses the most prolific offense in baseball. To make matters worse, the left-hander will be going up against the Astros’ ace in Justin Verlander. Oh yeah…and there’s that must-win scenario looming over the Dodgers like a rain cloud ready to burst.
Hill has pitched three times during this postseason — once in each round. He held the Cubs to one run and three hits in 5.0 innings (8 strikeouts). Against Houston in Game 2, he did fare rather well. Hill allowed only one run and three hits in 4.0 innings. Despite striking out seven and throwing only 60 pitches, he was lifted by manager Dave Roberts over match-up concerns with the upcoming hitters in the Houston lineup.
Understandably so, Hill was none too pleased over being jettisoned at such an early point in the ballgame. Roberts played the bullpen hand, which had been absolutely lethal. However, it failed in this contest — as the Astros came-from-behind to win the contest by a score of 7-6.
It’s an entirely new situation as we approach Game 6. The Dodgers’ rock-solid bullpen has been battered a bit. Fumes are rising from Brandon Morrow’s overworked right arm socket. Brandon McCarthy and Josh Fields appear to be utter worst-case scenarios in relief. Tony Cingrani has been primarily used in one-batter situations, and middle-relief extraordinaire Kenta Maeda is likely fatigued by his rampant use.
At this point, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the Dodgers will bridge the hypothetical gap between Hill and the suddenly-vulnerable Kenley Jansen. We could see Alex Wood come back on very short rest — though Los Angeles likely would want to save him in a potential Game 7.
As such, there’s only one plausible scenario…have Hill go for as long as he can. Roberts’ penchant for mixing-and-matching relievers with hitters has unquestionably been highly effective at times. When looking at the current situation, he likely doesn’t have that luxury.
Hill was very good in his initial start versus Houston. His fastball location was excellent, and was able to keep hitters off-balance by pitching backwards in obvious fastball/off-speed counts.
If Los Angeles is to force what would be a bonkers Game 7 scenario, Hill has to channel the spirit of Halloween and be Superman out on the mound.
Image Source: Salute Mag