As cruel as it may sound, the Los Angeles Dodgers probably made the right decision by not allowing Rich Hill to go for the complete perfect game, instead pulling the pitcher after 7 innings in which he didn’t allow a walk or a hit, even if the decision left Hill a bit frustrated, or his manager regretful.
Into his first season as the Dodgers manager, Dave Roberts has been able to overcome a multitude of injuries including team ace Clayton Kershaw and other problems, like Yasiel Puig not performing well, getting demoted to the minors and coming back, along with anything else a manager has to deal with on a baseball team. Within all that, he’s been able to steer the Dodgers towards the first place in the NL West despite trailing until August, overtaking the slumping San Francisco Giants.
Hill struck out 9 batters in 7 innings, using only 89 pitches in the 5-0 win over the Miami Marlins, as the Dodgers improved to 80-61, leading over the Giants with 4 games, and 21 games left to play this season. The perfect game bid ended in the 8th inning. Roberts told the press that there were signs of Hill’s nagging blister returning, although Hill said he felt fine and had no problem pitching some more, especially with such a milestone (24th potential perfect game in major league history) only 2 innings away.
I feel sick to my stomach. I’m going to lose sleep tonight. And I probably should. But nothing in my opinion is worth compromising our opportunity to win a championship.
Remember, Roberts pulled rookie Ross Stripling during his major league debut on April 8, after tossing a no hitter threw 7.1 innings, but he already had 100 pitches at the time, and no one really made much of a fuss in that case. But a perfect game comes along quite rarely, and to come so close to one and see it snatched away always leaves question marks. But again, there’s good reasoning behind the decision to do it.
Hill is 36, traded to the Dodgers on August 1 from the Oakland Athletics. He’s been tremendous for the Dodgers so far, starting in 3 games and through 19 innings, has yet to allow a run, has been hit only 6 times and has walked only 2 batters while striking out 20. The Dodgers can’t afford more injuries in their rotation and Hill, despite the short term focus in this case, does need to stay healthy in order to get that big, fat, multiyear deal when the season is over. With Hill missing quite a lot of games this year due to the blister and other injuries, suddenly the decision to pull him out might remain un-romantic within Baseball’s context, but pragmatic and maybe the right one in the long term, if the Dodgers do end up going far in the postseason, and Hill’s career goes in the direction this season has set up for it.