While the Los Angeles Dodgers adjusted their starting rotation to ensure Walker Buehler would pitch in a potential Game 163 to decide the National League West, they got to that position in no small part because of Rich Hill.
Pressed into starting duty on the final day of the regular season, Hill spun seven shutout innings against the San Francisco Giants. The win ensured the Dodgers kept pace with the Colorado Rockies and forced the extra game to decide the division the following afternoon.
Then when it came time to set their NL Division Series rotation, the Dodgers slotted Hill behind Buehler and in line for a potential start in Game 4. After taking a 2-0 series lead and with Buehler looming, many believed a sweep was in order.
But the rookie labored through a five-run second inning that the Braves used to carry themselves to a Game 3 win. So Hill took the mound eight days after his last outing.
He wasn’t particularly sharp, which made home-plate umpire Tom Hallion’s tight strike zone all the more difficult to deal with. The veteran southpaw allowed two runs over 4.1 innings, with his final line aided by Ryan Madson getting the Dodgers out of a bases-loaded jam.
Madson’s high-wire act, plus the collective group effort, led to Hill deeming Game 4 a microcosm of the Dodgers’ season, via SportsNet LA:
“It’s a great honor to be able to pitch, any time you get to the opportunity to pitch in these postseason games. I always mention the team, it was a big team win. The bullpen did an incredible job, guys picked me up, defensively we were really good, Manny’s home run was huge, Yaz did a heck of a job. I mean, today was kind of a synopsis of the season, where everybody just came through.”
Manny Machado shook off a rough NLDS showing with an RBI double in the first inning and three-run homer in the seventh. His late blast extended a lead that was provided by David Freese an inning earlier.
With two outs and runners at the corners, Freese found himself at the center of a key pinch-hit at-bat. Yasiel Puig stole second base without a throw, and Freese wound up getting a two-run single by a diving Charlie Culberson.
The Dodgers relied on their depth all season long, and as Hill noted, their clinching win on Monday very much embodied that. Now the club will look to ride that continuity in their third appearance in the NL Championship Series.
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