Now that Rich Hill finally got past an arm injury, he’s got a knee problem that might ruin his bid to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the postseason.
Hill struggled with his control during his first start since June 19 and hurt his left knee in the process, a development that took the edge off a 4-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night.
“It was an MCL strain, something that he dealt with initially early in spring training,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He missed some time with that. We hadn’t had any signs of that leading up to this outing.”
After spending 12 weeks on the injured list with a strained left forearm, Hill was supposed to go two innings in his first step toward becoming a postseason contributor for the NL West champions. Instead, the 39-year-old failed to make it out of the first.
Hill opened by striking out Hanser Alberto with a 75 mph curveball and getting Jonathan Villar to swing through a third strike.
From there, the outing turned sour.
The lefty hit Trey Mancini in the foot with a pitch, issued a four-pitch walk to Anthony Santander, hit Renato Núñez with a pitch and forced in a run by walking rookie Austin Hays with the count full. That ended Hill’s outing after 27 pitches, 13 of which missed the strike zone.
“You could see sometime after that second hitter, it just started to go down as far as velocity, command,” Roberts said. “You could see him compensating a little bit, so had to get him out of there.”
The frustration showed on Hill’s face on the mound, in the dugout and in the clubhouse.
“After the last curveball on the second hitter there, I felt my knee and then I stupidly tried to pitch through it,” he said. “I worked hard to get back and felt great.”
And then he didn’t.
“Unfortunately, it’s another bump in the road,” Hill said. “Hopefully, it’s not too major.”
The Dodgers trailed 2-1 in the sixth before Cody Bellinger knotted the score with a single for his 107th RBI. Los Angeles subsequently used a walk and an error to load the bases with two outs for No. 9 hitter Russell Martin. With the count full, Dylan Bundy (6-14) fired a high fastball that Martin swung at and missed. The ball glanced off the mitt of catcher Pedro Severino and traveled to the backstop.
Instead of having an inning-ending strikeout, Bundy watched in disgust from in front of the mound — neglecting to cover the plate — while Bellinger scored from the third base and Corey Seager followed for a 4-2 lead.
“I thought it was a strikeout,” Bundy said. “From where I was I couldn’t really see where the ball was.”
Roberts said, “Obviously Bundy threw the ball well, got frustrated and, to be quite honest, quit on the play. For us to take advantage of it was big.”
Tony Gonsolin (3-2) worked three innings of relief and Kenley Jansen got three straight outs for his 29th save.
Severino homered for the Orioles, who have lost 10 of 12.
INCENTIVE TO WIN
The Orioles long ago dropped out of the playoff chase, but they have no intention of coasting to the finish.
“I care. It matters a lot how we play,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I want to see us compete to the last inning of the last game. The message has been sent to our players, and I think they’re going to do that.”
Baltimore (47-99) is poised to lose 100 games for the second year in a row. Hyde, a rookie manager, was not here for the 47-115 embarrassment in 2018 that initiated an overhaul of the organization.
“It’s a different team, it’s a different year,” he said.
Dodgers: An MRI exam on 3B Justin Turner revealed a mild ankle sprain. Roberts said Turner was unavailable Thursday and his status would be revisited Friday. “There’s less concern now that we know it’s a mild sprain,” Roberts said. “With the sprain, time heals it. What that timeline is, is to be determined.” Turner has missed four straight games. … To make room on the roster for Hill, Los Angeles designated RHP Jaime Schultz for assignment.
Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw (13-5, 3.06 ERA), who is 9-0 with a 2.14 ERA in 14 career starts against the New York Mets, gets the nod Friday night when Los Angeles opens a three-game series at Citi Field.
Orioles: In the opener of a four-game series Friday night in Detroit, Aaron Brooks (4-8, 6.21) tries to bounce back from his last start, when he gave up six runs before getting an out against Texas.
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