• World Series Gm 6: Tue., 7:30 p.m. ET air time | 8 ET game time on FOX
The sort of injuries and setbacks that might have derailed another pitcher’s career served merely as passable hurdles for the 37-year-old Hill, who now finds himself ready to oppose Astros starter Justin Verlander in the first elimination game of this Fall Classic. The outcome of Game 5 on Sunday will determine whether Hill is pitching to extend the Dodgers’ season or help seal it with the franchise’s first World Series championship since 1988.
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“Going out there in Game 6 and having the ability to be in that position and go out there and leave everything on the field is just an amazing thought,” Hill said. “I think it’s something that, looking back on it, whatever the outcome might be, that you did everything that you could to put your team in a position to win.”
Hill has met that standard all postseason long. His starts in the National League Division and Championship Series ended as Dodgers wins, and his World Series debut in Game 2 featured four strong innings in which he allowed one run. Hill scattered three hits and struck out seven in that effort against the Astros, who won in 11 innings to even the Series at one game apiece.
“There wasn’t much not to like,” he said. “I mean, I felt pretty good the way the ball came out of my hand. The convicted approach is really the only thing that matters to me. Trying to stay in the moment, I think that was the biggest thing.”
But while it will be Hill who throws the first pitch when the Series shifts back to Los Angeles, it’ll be manager Dave Roberts who ultimately decides how many pitches Hill will get. Roberts has been aggressive with the deployment of his bullpen in October, and that’s been especially true behind Hill.
Though he’s been knocked for only four runs on nine hits in three postseason starts, Hill has yet to get an opportunity to pitch past the fifth. Two of his starts, in fact, ended after four. The Dodgers have intentionally steered clear of having Hill on the mound when a lineup turns over for a third time. In those three starts, only once did Hill face a batter three times.
It’s expected that Roberts will manage Hill’s leash similarly in Game 6, even though Hill’s numbers during the regular season actually support extending him longer. He held opponents to a .158/.208/.200 slash line and .408 OPS the third time through the order this year.
“Once Game 6 starts, we’ll see,” Roberts said when asked about his pitch-count plans for Hill. “We’ll evaluate. We’ll watch how it goes, how he’s throwing the baseball, how the ‘pen is, how the usage is at that point in time and what’s at our disposal.”
With an off-day ahead of Hill’s start, the Dodgers are likely to have not only a full eight-man bullpen ready Tuesday but also potentially a starter or two who could provide relief behind Hill.
It’s a blueprint Hill understands and has, even if reluctantly, agreed to accept. He’s simply focused on doing his part.
“I think as a competitor, yeah, absolutely you want to continue to keep going,” Hill said. “But you have to look outside yourself and look at the team and see what’s most valuable for the team. So take yourself out of it, [and] also take it from Dave’s standpoint where he’s looking at it as a whole, as a team, and what we’re trying to accomplish here in this World Series.”
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.