(Photo Credit: Brian Rothmuller)
Although it took a little more than three weeks in the Dodgers‘ organization to battle through the final stages of an agonizing blister on his throwing finger, lefty starter Rich Hill made an extremely impressive debut on Wednesday evening that left fans feeling a little bit better about an otherwise questionable starting rotation.
Just before the trade deadline, the Dodgers sacrificed three very good prospects to acquire Hill and outfielder Josh Reddick, and up until last night, many supporters of the club were feeling sick to their stomachs regarding the return of the team’s hefty investment.
While Reddick still continues to struggle at the dish, Hill delivered a masterful performance in the middle game of a three game set against the Giants, outdueling Johnny Cueto 1-0 and helping the Dodgers stretch their divisional lead to a full three games.
Hill lasted a full six innings before being pulled by manager Dave Roberts, and efficiently threw a total of 81 pitches highlighted by his trademark curve ball. Despite striking out only three batters, he stayed ahead in the counts all night and never came close to issuing a free pass. Hill would probably have gone deeper in the game, but Roberts was especially cautious being that it was the 36-year-old’s first appearance since July 17 with Oakland.
Justin Turner, responsible for the Dodgers’ lone run of the evening with a solo shot into the stands in the bottom of the fourth inning, was very much content with Hill’s dazzling start — something the squad’s defense isn’t accustomed to witnessing as of late.
“It was awesome, man,” Turner said. “He went out there and just competed. He just got the ball and went, his tempo was great, and he pounded the strike zone. He felt he could have maybe located better and was getting frustrated. I’m like, ‘Man, you’re doing an awesome job right now. Just keep going. You haven’t pitched in a month.’ That was refreshing. That was nice to see.”
While it’s nice to revel in Hill’s victory and celebrate the current three-game divisional lead, it’s certainly not safe to assume that the Dodgers’ rotation has turned a corner and is back to being better than average in relation to the others in the NL. After all, a few days after being acquired from the Braves, righty Bud Norris made his Los Angeles debut on July 2 and threw a gem of a six-inning, five-hit, eight strikeout affair, only to be gradually spiraling downward ever since.
Regardless, an effort like Hill’s debut is surely a breath of fresh air, and is undoubtedly welcomed just one day after a cheeky writer here at this blog proclaimed that the Dodgers were a team establishing a precarious identity as an offensive juggernaut.
All that being said, the Dodgers will turn to rookie righty Ross Stripling on Thursday night in hopes of extending their lead in the division even further. Strip has tallied a 4.04 ERA in 71-1/3 innings over 12 starts this season, including 53 strikeouts and 23 walks.
Since being recalled on July 23, he has a 3.16 ERA in six games, three of which were starts.
Stripling will be opposed by Matt Moore of San Francisco. First pitch is slated for 7:10 p.m. local time at Dodger Stadium.