Hill strug­gles in loss to In­di­ans

Dodgers coaches think emo­tions may have got­ten the best of the pitcher.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Andy McCullough andy.mccullough@la­times.com Twit­ter: @McCul­loughTimes

CLEVELAND — Rich Hill stomped into the Dodgers dugout, flung his glove against the bench and dis­ap­peared from sight. He made this fu­ri­ous march twice in Thurs­day’s 12-5 loss to the In­di­ans.

Once, af­ter the first in­ning, when he threw 40 pitches and dumped his team in a three-run hole. And again, af­ter the sec­ond in­ning, when he gave up two more runs. Then he watched from the bench as the game dis­ap­peared from reach in the fifth.

In all, Hill was charged with seven runs. He cost his club a chance for a sweep as a six-game win­ning streak was ended. Hill had not given up that many runs in one out­ing in seven years. His de­scent to­ward medi­ocrity, af­ter dis­play­ing such ca­pa­bil­ity in 2016, dis­gusted him.

“It’s not fun to go out there and suck,” Hill said. “So I’ve got to get some bet­ter re­sults next time.”

The de­ba­cle height­ened scru­tiny of Hill’s per­for­mance in 2017. Signed to a three-year, $48-mil­lion con­tract in the win­ter, Hill has been be­set by blis­ters and mad­dened by in­con­sis­tency. He has yet to pitch in the sixth in­ning this sea­son. His earned-run av­er­age in­flated to 5.14 on Thurs­day.

The out­ing spawned a con­flict­ing ar­ray of ex­pla­na­tions. Man­ager Dave Roberts sug­gested that Hill strug­gled to main­tain fo­cus on each pitch as he boiled with in­ten­sity.

Hill down­played that no­tion, and at­trib­uted his trou­ble to in­suf­fi­cient ex­e­cu­tion, par­tic­u­larly with his curve­ball. Pitch­ing coach Rick Hon­ey­cutt stressed that Hill has ironed out his me­chan­i­cal glitches, but con­ceded some­thing could be up­set­ting Hill’s equi­lib­rium.

“If you let your emo­tions get too high, then it can run the op­po­site way,” Hon­ey­cutt said. “Some peo­ple need to have that cer­tain edge, but also the edge can also get things mov­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion some­times.”

Away from the field, Hill ex­udes po­lite­ness, armed with a goofy sense of hu­mor and a cu­rios­ity about the world. On the mound, he be­comes a far more ag­i­tated fig­ure, snarling and swear­ing through his out­ings. He of­ten can laugh about the trans­for­ma­tion. On Thurs­day, Roberts won­dered whether emo­tion played a role in the calamity.

“I think Rich is ul­tra­com­pet­i­tive, and I think [that some­times is a] detri­ment to him­self,” Roberts said. “Where he’s throw­ing the base­ball well, and he makes one bad pitch, and he tries to get back to per­fec­tion. It com­pounds it­self. … I love the fight, but some­times, yeah, you’ve got to keep his emo­tions at bay, or tem­per him.”

On the of­fi­cial record, Hill pitched only four in­nings. But he re­turned for the fifth, af­ter a two-run homer by Chris Tay­lor in the fourth cut the Dodgers’ deficit to one. The team would never get closer.

Hill walked a bat­ter and gave up a sin­gle to an­other be­fore Ross Stripling sur­ren­dered a three-run homer to In­di­ans out­fielder Lon­nie Chisen­hall. Cleveland scored three more runs off Stripling in the sixth. Chris Hatcher yielded an­other home run in the seventh.

Roberts re­lied on Stripling and Hatcher be­cause Kenta Maeda was not avail­able. Maeda, the most re­cent ad­di­tion to the relief corps, threw a bullpen ses­sion Thurs­day morn­ing. He will make a spot start Sun­day in Cincinnati. The Dodgers in­tend to give all five of the starters an ex­tra day of rest.

And Hill will re­main in the ro­ta­tion — for one more turn, at least. Maeda can­not be con­sid­ered a re­li­able alternative. Shoul­der in­flam­ma­tion has felled Julio Urias. So the Dodgers still need Hill to con­trib­ute as a starter.

“It’s nec­es­sary for us to win a cham­pi­onship; he’s got to be good and be in the ro­ta­tion,” Roberts said. “He knows he’s got to get bet­ter. And he’s try­ing.”

Hill felt heart­ened by his pre­vi­ous out­ing, on June 9. He com­pleted five in­nings, and only one stretched into a marathon. Af­ter­ward, he men­tioned tech­ni­cal im­prove­ments that stream­lined his ap­proach to the plate and sharp­ened his com­mand. He could not re­cap­ture that form Thurs­day.

From the start, Hill op­er­ated un­der duress. He gave up a lead­off sin­gle on a 3-1 fast­ball. He gave up an­other sin­gle on a full-count fast­ball. Cleveland third base­man Jose Ramirez sin­gled on a 1-1 fast­ball to drive in a run. Hill loaded the bases when a curve­ball brushed the leg of slug­ger Ed­win En­car­na­cion. The un­wield­i­ness of the curve­ball forced Hill to lean on his fast­ball.

Hill edged to­ward an es­cape, but stum­bled with two outs. He is­sued a walk to catcher Roberto Perez, who has a .229 on-base per­cent­age. The night­mare ex­tended when rookie out­fielder Bradley Zim­mer beat Hill to the bag on an in­field sin­gle.

Down three runs, Hill let the sec­ond in­ning re­sem­ble the first. Af­ter a one-out sin­gle by out­fielder Daniel Robert­son, Ramirez roped a run-scor­ing dou­ble. Ramirez got caught try­ing to steal third base, but that was only a small re­prieve. En­car­na­cion clob­bered a 2-2 fast­ball for a home run with the bases empty.

The Dodgers lineup pulled the club back into con­tention. Cody Bellinger recorded his 18th homer of the sea­son with a solo shot in the fourth. Joc Ped­er­son and Yasiel Puig traded dou­bles in the fifth. Tay­lor bashed his two-run shot off In­di­ans starter Josh Tom­lin. A come­back ap­peared in reach — un­til Hill and Stripling frit­tered it away in the bot­tom of the in­ning.

Tony De­jak As­so­ci­ated Press

CLEVELAND’S LON­NIE CHISEN­HALL, cen­ter, is con­grat­u­lated af­ter he hit a three-run homer in the fifth in­ning against the Dodgers on Thurs­day. Ed­win En­car­na­cion and Car­los San­tana scored on the play.

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