Rich Hill Again Flirts With Perfection

Rich Hill’s 2017 Perfect Game Bid

In yesterday’s game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates, Rich Hill had pitched 8 innings without allowing a single base runner. Not only had he not allowed anyone on base, he had done it with under 90 pitches, allowing him a shot at pitching the 9th inning to go for history.

Sadly, Hill allowed a hard bouncing ground ball to the first batter of the 9th that third baseman Logan Forsythe could not handle. The perfect game was over in an instant. What makes it even more frustrating is the excellent perfect gaming-saving catch the inning prior from second baseman Chase Utley:

Even as the perfect game was over, Hill got the next three outs of the inning and secured the no hitter! Well, he would have secured the no hitter had the Dodgers not been blanked as well. Instead, the game went into extra innings with a 0-0 tie.

No Hitter Bid

Through 9 innings, Rich Hill was as great as he had ever been. His line was 9 IP 0 H 0 R 0 ER 0 BB 10 K, with the only base runner allowed by error. Once the Dodgers did not score in the 10th, he was sent out to continue his no hit effort. This was very similar to former Dodgers pitcher Pedro Martinez, whom in 1995 threw 9 perfect innings, only for his team not to score either, then losing the perfect game in the 10th inning.

Heartbreakingly, Josh Harrison, the first batter of the 10th inning, lined a ball just out of the reach of the reach of Dodgers’ left fielder Curtis Granderson for a walk-off home run.

The First Pitcher Ever To Lose A No-Hitter On A Walkoff Home Run

According to The Ace Of Spaeder Twitter account, Rich Hill became the first pitcher to ever lose a no hitter on a walk-off home run:

For a pitcher who has gone through so many trials and tribulations such as Rich Hill, throwing a perfect game or even a no hitter would have been a huge career accomplishment. Before 2016, Hill had not pitched more than 50 innings in the MLB in a season going all the way back to 2009. You may remember that Hill caught back on with the Boston Red Sox in late 2015, earning himself a one year contract with the Oakland A’s for the following 2016 season. In 2016, he pitched to a 2.12 ERA with the A’s and Dodgers combined, then earning himself an even bigger deal for 3/48. Coming back from all of the injuries and pitching struggles to throw a perfect game or no hitter may have been the highlight of his career had it been accomplished.

Still, this was one of the few best games pitched of Hill’s career, up there with a couple of other 10 K games with the Chicago Cubs in 2006 and Red Sox in 2015, both 2 hit shutouts. However, there was another game just last season that had a very similar feel to this one.

2016 Perfect Game Effort

Yesterday’s perfect game effort was not the first time Rich Hill has pitched late into a game without allowing a base runner. In fact, it’s not even the only time in the last year.

On 9/10/2016, Rich Hill pitched brilliantly against the Florida Marlins, facing 21 batters in 7 innings, striking out 9 and not allowing a single base runner. Back in 2016, the Dodgers were much more worried about Rich Hill’s arm considering his age and his extensive injury history. Despite the fact that Hill was dominating the Marlins lineup through 7 innings, Hill was at 89 pitches, and the Dodgers were more concerned with keeping Hill healthy for the playoffs the next month. Hill was lifted for Joe Blanton and the Dodgers ended up winning the game 5-0.

As someone who seems very much like a competitive person, this was a tough pill to swallow for Hill. In his post game interview, he was very professional, but you could tell he wanted the shot at the perfect game. It is interesting to wonder if this game against the Marlins was on his mind at all once he pitched into the 8th inning and beyond in yesterday’s game. For a competitor like Hill, actually getting the shot this time must have been a wonderful feeling, but falling short yet again has to hurt.

Could He Get Another Shot Going Forward?

At the age of 37, you might believe that yesterday was the last shot Rich Hill may ever have to throw a perfect game or no-hitter. However, over the last couple of years, Hill is pitching better than he has at any point in his career. Going back starting with his four start stint with the Red Sox in 2015, Hill has pitched 242.1 IP with a 2.56 ERA and 3.02 FIP. With the Dodgers alone, Hill has pitched 137.1 IP with a 2.95 ERA and 3.44 FIP.

Just looking at his game log with the Dodgers, he has thrown eight different starts with 2 or fewer hits allowed and at least 5 IP. Four of those starts had at least 6 IP. Three of them he went at least 7 IP. Another three of those starts had 1 or fewer hits allowed.

Essentially, if you are betting against Rich Hill to ever threaten a no-hitter or perfect game again, you may want to think again.