Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill clearly envisioned a different ending to his outing in Game 6 of the World Series.
The Dodgers would ultimately pull out a 3-1 win, thus forcing a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday night. But emotions were high in the fifth inning. All Hill could do was stare helplessly at manager Dave Roberts as he strolled to the mound in the middle of the inning with the clear intention of taking the ball. Nothing he could say or do at that point would change Roberts’ mind, so he walked to the dugout as his frustration reached a boiling point.
Then came the rage.
Well, at least he spared the Gatorade jug.
Hill had held his own for the first four innings, allowing just a solo home run to George Springer. But he ran into big trouble in the fifth. The Astros had loaded the bases with two outs — one of them being a Justin Verlander strikeout — and Roberts had no intentions of letting Hill face Alex Bregman a third time.
The decision worked. Fatigued reliever Brandon Morrow mustered the energy to retire Bregman. But as the image of a fuming Hill began to fade, the image of the Dodgers scary reality came into focus. With their backs against the wall in an elimination game, this had become a bullpen game.
We’re sure that all played a part in Hill’s reaction. He knew his teammates in the bullpen were spent after the three games in Houston. In his mind, it was his responsibility to spare them another long night. Beyond that, he still had plenty left in his own tank. He’d only thrown 58 pitches to that point. He had more to give.
From Roberts perspective, it seems he had predetermined not allowing Houston’s lineup to see Hill a third time in Game 6. Especially after just seeing him a few days ago. But for what it’s worth, Hill isn’t a pitcher who’s easily solved. At least based on the numbers.
Worth repeating: Rich Hill third time through the order in 2017 regular season — .158 average, 0 homers in 95 at-bats.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 1, 2017
Rich Hill allowed a .408 OPS — yes, OPS — on the third time through the lineup during the regular season. @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 1, 2017
It’s one of those moments that highlights the competitive nature of everyone involved. Hill wanted to be the man that led the Dodgers to Game 7. Roberts simply wanted to pull every string he could to make Game 7 a reality, and that’s exactly what he got. It all carries with it a lot of passion and emotion, and that all came through on baseball’s biggest stage.
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