Rich Hill Continues Comeback Story in Bronx

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The story of Rich Hill’s 2015 season has been one of the most talked about among the professional baseball world of late. After being released by the Washington Nationals in June, he joined the Long Island Ducks for his first experience in independent baseball. Following two dominant starts, he was signed by the Boston Red Sox and pitched extremely well at Triple-A Pawtucket (3-2, 2.78 ERA in five starts). From there, the Red Sox promoted him to the Major Leagues on September 8, making him the 15th player in franchise history to make it to “The Show” after playing on Long Island.

That journey alone would be impressive enough. From pitching with the Ducks to pitching with the Red Sox in a month, the story has essentially written itself. However, what the southpaw has done since making it back to the big leagues has opened even more eyes. Let’s take a look at the pitching lines from his first three starts with Boston this September:

September 13 at Tampa Bay (Red Sox win 2-0):
ND, 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K, 109 pitches, 68 strikes

September 20 at Toronto (Red Sox win 4-3):
W, 7.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 10 K, 107 pitches, 84 strikes

September 25 vs. Baltimore (Red Sox win 7-0):
W, 9.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K, 116 pitches, 81 strikes

Put them all together and Hill is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA. He has surrendered just 10 hits and two walks in 23 innings of work while striking out 30 batters. 70% of his 332 pitches thrown have been for strikes. Aside from teams clinching playoff berths and division titles, no other story has been more positive than that of Rich Hill’s.

Tonight, he’ll write the next chapter of his fabulous comeback story on one of the biggest stages in professional sports: Yankee Stadium. He’s the scheduled starter for the Red Sox and will look to pitch his team to a four-game sweep of their longtime rivals. Opposing him will be another left-hander in C.C. Sabathia, a former Cy Young Award winner and six-time All-Star in the midst of a difficult season. For the Yankees, a win means they clinch a spot in the playoffs. While the Red Sox will end their rough season on Sunday in Cleveland, tonight could be Hill’s final chance to make a lasting impression on the team this year and turn his success into a starting role with Boston in 2016.

Hill is no stranger to pitching at Yankee Stadium. He was a member of the Yankees’ bullpen a year ago, compiling a 1.69 ERA in 14 games, 11 of which were in the Bronx. In fact, he combined for one scoreless inning over two games against the Red Sox in September. Hill’s second-ever big league appearance came at the current stadium’s predecessor on June 18, 2005, a game in which he struck out Tino Martinez and walked Robinson Cano before being lifted for Joe Borowski, who famously served up the only grand slam of Derek Jeter’s career. That was his only appearance in “The House that [Babe] Ruth Built.” In “The House that George [Steinbrenner] Built,” he has a career record of 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA in 15 games (one start).

For those hoping to see Hill pitch, we strongly urge you to make your way out to Yankee Stadium tonight. While it may be cool, cloudy and a little rainy, this is a unique opportunity for Ducks fans to watch him take the mound in the area once again after his incredible two-game stint on Long Island. In fact, tickets can be had for as little as $9 on StubHub! If you cannot make it out, we’ve got you covered! The Ducks have been graciously given the opportunity to be at Yankee Stadium tonight to report on this outstanding story. We plan to provide live, in-game updates right here on “Quack of the Bat” and via the team’s official Twitter feed (@LIDucks). In addition, we hope to get some great photos and video of Hill’s outing on Thursday and will be speaking with him following his start to discuss the outing, his journey back to the Majors and his time spent with the Ducks. On Friday, we’ll have a full article complete with quotes from Hill, and hopefully some of his teammates and opponents, on the blog.

Stay tuned for more throughout the day here and on Twitter. We’ll be live from Yankee Stadium this afternoon, and you won’t want to miss out on this exciting day!

UPDATE (3:21): We have arrived at Yankee Stadium and are getting situated in the press box. It is cloudy and chilly outside, but any heavy rain seems to be avoiding the area right now. Both managers are scheduled to speak prior to the game, and we hope to get both Joe Girardi’s and Torey Lovullo’s takes on what Rich Hill has done thus far since getting back to the Major Leagues. In addition, we’ll try to get some thoughts from some of Rich’s current and former teammates with both teams.

UPDATE (5:31): We are back in the press box after pre-game media availability. Below are some quotes about Rich from both managers and a few of his Red Sox teammates. In other news, rain has begun to fall at the Stadium, and the tarp is on the field. We’ll keep you updated on the status of the game here and on Twitter as soon as we find out more information.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi: “His command has been tremendous. When you watch the video tape from the games that he has started, his command has been great. He’s used different angles with his pitches. That’s what has impressed me.”

Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo: “We’re not looking for Rich Hill to change. We’re looking for him to stay exactly the same. He’s got a great game plan. He’s throwing strikes with two, and sometimes three, pitches. He’s developed a nice little change-up.”

Red Sox infielder Dustin Pedroia: “I’ve got a pretty good view of when he throws the ball, and his curveball has been unbelievable. He’s been locating his fastball and throwing strikes. He’s been all over the zone, and when you’re throwing strikes and getting swings and misses, that’s a sign that your stuff is pretty darn good.”

Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart: “He’s been impressive, and he’s fun to watch. Every time he steps on the mound, he’s going to compete and give us all that he’s got.”

Red Sox pitcher Craig Breslow: “He’s been throwing the ball so well that I think for us, we’ve kind of moved past the ‘Rich Hill great story’ and into the ‘Rich Hill reliable starting pitcher’ mentality.”

UPDATE (6:40): Good news! The grounds crew is taking the tarp off! It is still raining, but hopefully the game begins on time! We’ll keep you updated as soon as we find anything out. we also plan to take some photos from the field level when Hill takes the mound!

UPDATE (7:33): Great start for Rich Hill! He threw a 1-2-3 bottom of the first inning, getting Brett Gardner to ground out to second (play was called safe, challenged and overturned), Rob Refsnyder to ground out to short, and Alex Rodriguez to strike out looking. He threw just nine pitches, six for strikes.

UPDATE (7:41): Carlos Beltran just hit a 3-2 pitch narrowly over the wall in right field for a leadoff homer in the second. 1-0 Yankees.

UPDATE (7:54): Following a walk to Didi Gregorius with two outs, Brendan Ryan grounds a RBI single to left. He bounces back though to strike out Gardner with a nasty curve to end the inning. Threw 37 pitches in the second and is now at 46 for the game, 26 for strikes.

Here are a few photos we took from field level:

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UPDATE (8:23): After a one-out walk to A-Rod, Hill gets revenge on Beltran and induces a double play. Still 2-0. 11 pitches in 3rd for Hill. 9 strikes.

UPDATE (8:45): Hill works around a leadoff double in the fourth and strands Chris Young at third! Now at 82 pitches, 50 for strikes. He’s got three K’s.

UPDATE (8:58): A RBI single by Mookie Betts in the fifth has brought Boston to within 2-1. Hill back out for his fifth inning of work.

UPDATE (9:05): Hill allows a one-out single to Gardner but gets Refsnyder to hit into a 5-4-3 double play! Five innings of 2-run ball and at 90 pitches, 57 strikes.

UPDATE (9:17): Nifty behind-the-back play by Adam Warren to retire Sandy Leon and end the top of the sixth. Meanwhile, Hill is returning to the mound!

Here are some more photos taken down on the field level:

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UPDATE (9:24): WHAT A SIXTH INNING! Hill strikes out the side of A-Rod, Beltran and Young! 12 pitches in the inning, 10 for strikes! He’s got six K’s!

UPDATE (9:31): Mookie Betts came oh-so-close to giving the Red Sox a 3-2 lead in the seventh, but Chris Young caught the ball at the wall in left.

UPDATE (9:38): Hill’s night is complete after six innings. Fourth quality start in four outings since returning to the Major Leagues! Final line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 102 pitches, 67 strikes

UPDATE (10:02): The Yankees have increased their lead to 4-1 on solo homers by Greg Bird in the seventh and Rob Refsnyder in the eighth.

UPDATE (10:16): Dellin Betances comes in for the ninth, trying to clinch a playoff berth. We’ll head down after the game to speak with Hill and others.

UPDATE (10:22): Yankees win the game 4-1. Congratulations to them on their 10,000th win and clinching a playoff berth. Tough first loss for Hill.

UPDATE (11:09): Back up from the Red Sox clubhouse, where we spoke with Hill, pitcher Rick Porcello and outfielder Mookie Betts. We’ll have a story full of quotes tomorrow, but here’s the quote of the night from Rich:
“I’ll be forever grateful to the Ducks and the Atlantic League. The atmosphere on Long Island and the fans there are unbelievable.” What a wonderful way to end the night. Thank you everyone for following along and be sure to check back here tomorrow for our full story on the night.

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Posted on October 1, 2015, in Feature Articles and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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