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Rich Hill: ‘There’s no such thing as an interleague rivalry’

The veteran Dodgers pitcher was the Cubs rookie on the mound when Michael Barrett punched A.J. Pierzynski during the most infamous moment in 22 years of Cubs-Sox interleague games.

Chicago Cubs v Chicago White Sox
Rich Hill (facing umpire) tries to help break up the benches-clearing scrum caused by catcher Michael Barrett punching the White Sox’ A.J. Pierzynski during this 2006 game. Hill, a rookie in 2006, beat the Cubs 5-3 Friday night as a veteran Dodgers starter.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES – As a Cubs rookie pitcher in 2006, Rich Hill earned a place in Cubs-Sox lore with comments after the A.J. Pierzynski-Michael Barrett fight that set off White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

Thirteen years later, he’s the only one left in the majors from that incident and its airtime-guzzling fallout, and the 37-year-old Dodgers starter has a new take all these years later on Cubs-Sox – and Dodgers-Angels for that matter.

“There’s no such thing as an interleague rivalry,” he said. “I think baseball would love to have that fantasy of like, ‘Yes, this is [legitimate].’ But the sheer fact of not having the history and the experience – it’s probably been, what, 20 years of interleague play?”

This year makes 23.

“I’ve been a part of I think every major rivalry there is in baseball,” said Hill, referring to Cubs-Cardinals, Dodgers-Giants and – when he pitched in Boston – Red Sox-Yankees.

“Sometimes we lose the feel for those rivalries because of the lack of history that is being passed on to the players – the understanding of why some of these rivalries were so important and so big,” he said.

“The point I’m making is we don’t have that [with interleague series]. Maybe the Cubs-White Sox is the closest thing.”

It’s hard to deny that perspective when the teams aren’t even in the same league and when often – as in the case of the Cubs and Sox this year – one team is trying to contend while the other continues to rebuild.

On the other hand, Hill did his part to stoke the Cubs-Sox rivalry narrative when he called Pierzynski “gutless” for the collision with Cubs catcher Barrett that provoked Barrett to punch Pierzysnki – igniting a bench-clearing incident.

Guillen went off, saying among other things that Hill should “shut up and pitch before he gets sent down.”

Hill, who apologized for the “heat of the moment,” said he has trouble now remembering many details from the moment

“That was so long ago,” he said. “I think it’s something where there’s been many other moments for me personally.”

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Before this year’s two home series sweeps, the last time the Cubs beat the Cardinals in their first six home meetings was 1907 – the year the Cubs won their first World Series. And nine years before the Cubs played their first game at Wrigley Field. (Thanks to non-boring Cards beat writer Derrick Goold for this one).
  • Sunday’s Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu hasn’t walked a left-handed batter in 83 plate appearances vs. lefties. Five of the six walks he has issued to current Cubs in his career have been to lefties: Gonzalez (3), Daniel Descalso and Kyle Schwarber. (Also walked Albert Almora once).

HIDDEN FIGURES

29 – Major-league teams Yu Darvish has faced in his career. The Cubs starter will finally notch a start against every team when he faces No. 30, the Dodgers, on Saturday.

0 – Earned runs allowed this month by left-hander Cole Hamels in three starts (22 innings), entering Tuesday’s start against the White Sox.

.448 – Anthony Rizzo’s career on-base percentage against the White Sox (28 games), his best OBP mark vs. any opponent (32 hits, 20 walks, 20 strikeouts in 125 plate appearances).

1.71 – Cubs starter Jose Quintana’s ERA in four career starts against the Dodgers (26 1/3 innings), entering his Sunday night matchup against the Dodgers’ best starter this season, Hyun-Jin Ryu (9-1, 1.36 ERA).

THAT’S WHAT HE SAID

“It’s just like whenever you play Lehigh or West Hazleton. You don’t take it for granted.” — Cubs manager Joe Maddon in 2018 comparing Cubs-Sox to his college and high school rivalries in Pennsylvania.

“We have a good series against the Dodgers, and we’re World Series favorites. If we don’t, we should probably trade Kimbrel already. That’s the way [it works].” — Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo on outside perceptions of this weekend’s big Dodgers series.

“Not that I know of, no.” — Cubs pitcher Cole Hamels when asked if hitting Colorado’s Nolan Arenado with a pitch Wednesday was in retaliation for teammate Kris Bryant getting hit twice the day before.