Ex-Cub factor? Dodgers’ Hill gets call against old team in Game 3

LOS ANGELES — Rich Hill’s meandering baseball odyssey began with the Cubs when they drafted the tall curve-balling lefty in the fourth round of the 2002 draft and gave him his first four years in the big leagues.

He has come full circle after playing for the – take a deep breath here – Cubs, Orioles, Red Sox, Indians, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox, Athletics and Dodgers, culminating on Tuesday night against the Cubs in Los Angeles for a pivotal Game 3 of the NLCS.

There was also a humbling and inspiring stint with the the Long Island Ducks, an independent league team, in 2015.

Along the way, Hill has endured one setback after another, starting with a send-down to AAA Iowa by the Cubs in May 2008 after he went 11-8 with a 3.92 ERA in 2007, and a spotty health history that includes back and groin problems, Tommy John Surgery and, most recently, persistent blister issues.

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Rich Hill throws during the first inning against the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of baseball's National League Division Series, at Nationals Park, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Rich Hill throws during the first inning against the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of baseball's National League Division Series, at Nationals Park, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

Hill was on the disabled list when the Dodgers, their pitching staff dented by injuries, made a trade with the A’s for him and Josh Reddick. He was 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA with the A’s, then went 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA for the Dodgers.

Not bad for a guy who, in 12 seasons owns a 4.10 ERA over 221 appearances including 94 starts. Sixty-four of those starts were with the Cubs.

On Monday, Hill downplayed the significance of pitching on this big stage against the team with whom it all began.

“No, pitching against the Cubs, it’s just coincidence and here we are,” he said. “I don’t look at it like any other team.’’

Too many battles with his health and delivery changes have happened since then to dwell on it too deeply. When he started against the Nationals in Game 2 of the NLDS, it was Hill’s first postseason appearance since he started Game 3 of the NLDS for the Cubs against the Diamondbacks when he gave up three runs on six hits, including a leadoff home run to Chris Young, over three innings. The D-backs won 5-1 to complete a three-game sweep.

Hill lasted 4 1/3 innings in Game 2 against the Nats and 2 2/3 in Game 5, allowing four and one run.

“It was 6 2/3 with 13 strikeouts, does that sound correct?” Hill asked Monday, defending his somewhat brief body of work for two starts.

“So if you we want to talk numbers, to me that’s an indication of what is there. You know what I mean?”

Hill and his Dodgers teammates come into Game 3 in good shape after Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen combined for a 1-0 shutout victory over the Cubs in Game 2 at Wrigley Field.

“Yeah, that was 100 percent inspiring,’’ Hill said. “What Clayton and Kenley have been doing this entire season is unbelieveable.

“I told my wife after [Game 2], ‘Clayton’s going to go back to the bat cave and we’re all going to hop on the plane and go back to L.A.”

 


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