Rich Hill took the loss in Wednesday night’s game against the Pirates, but his outing will still be remembered as one of the greatest pitched games in Dodgers history.
For the second time in 11 months Hill was damned near perfect, this time retiring the first 24 batters faced. The only batter who reached base in the first nine innings was Jordy Mercer, on an error by Logan Forsythe.
That brought to mind the Hanley Ramirez error in Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter in 2014, or Bill Russell’s error in Jerry Reuss’ no-hitter in 1980, both the only blemishes in a would-be perfect game.
But Wednesday had an extra wrinkle to it, because the Dodgers didn’t score. So to get his no-hitter, Hill would have to keep pitching. And with just 95 pitches through nine innings, he did!
It was the first time a Dodgers starter threw a pitch in the 10th inning since Orel Hershiser on Oct. 1, 1989.
Given that the Dodgers didn’t score in the top of the 10th, pitching even longer was in play as well, had the game lasted that long.
“It was kind of contingent upon that 10th inning,” manager Dave Roberts told reporters after the game. “I just wanted to give him an opportunity to be efficient in the 10th, to then have a discussion for the 11th.”
The 11th never came, thanks to Josh Harrison, who homered just over the left field wall and just out of reach of Curtis Granderson to lead off the 10th.
Yep. Still lovin' it.— Pirates (@Pirates) August 24, 2017
Harrison, who is 5-for-13 (.385) with two home runs and two doubles in the series, hit just the second extra-inning, walk-off home run to beat the Dodgers 1-0 in the last 105 years. The other was hit by Dave Kingman, who won a game for the Mets on June 17, 1976, against Charlie Hough in the 14th inning at Shea Stadium. From Parton Keese in the New York Times:
He described Hough's first pitch to him as a “knuckler that probably didn't knuckle, and I was thinking home run all the time.” The night before, Hough had struck Kingman out to end the game, the fourth time the Met right fielder had gone out on strikes.
“You got to throw knucklers to that uy because he can hit the ball out of the park,” Hough had said then. He meant good knucklers.
Hill was the first major league pitcher to take a no-hitter into extra innings since Pedro Martinez on June 3, 1995. Martinez was perfect through nine innings against the Padres in San Diego, and like Hill his pitch count was very low, at just 93 through nine. Bip Roberts led off the 10th inning with a double to end Martinez’s bid for history, and he was pulled from the game, in what was a no-decision.
MLB Network showed a graphic of the last pitchers to lose a no-hitter in extra innings:
That really you Mark Gardner? If so, raise your hand. pic.twitter.com/t7W46Cc0Ti— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) August 24, 2017
The most famous of these games is the Harvey Haddix game, linked ever more so to Hill’s game since the Pirates were involved. Haddix was perfect through 12 innings before an error to open the 13th broke things up.
A sacrifice was followed by an intentional walk to Hank Aaron, and then Joe Adcock hit a ball over the fence to end Haddix’s night much like Hill’s. But there is a caveat.
Technically, Harrison is the first player to end a no-hit bid with a walk-off home run. Gregory H. Wolf’s SABR biography of Adcock explains why Harrison wasn’t the second:
Mantilla scored the winning run; however, in the ensuing melee, Aaron scampered to the dugout after rounding second base while Adcock circled the bases. Adcock was later ruled out for passing Aaron and his home run was scored a double.
Rich Hill said he was unaware of Harvey Haddix's historic game. But the two pitchers have a lot of common ground. https://t.co/CHaOIzNZnP— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) August 24, 2017
Hill struck out 10 batters on Wednesday with no walks, and his game score of 91 is the best by a Dodgers pitcher this season. That 91 game score is just the fifth Dodgers game score of at least 90 by a losing pitcher in the last 105 years.
The other four pitchers all pitched at least 13 innings, with the last by Sandy Koufax in a 193-pitch, loss in 14 innings at Wrigley Field on May 28, 1960. The other three were all 1920 and earlier.
Dodgers losing pitchers with 90+ game score
Hill, who told reporters the loss was on him because of his “one bad pitch” to Harrison, had the perfect perspective on his hard-luck night. From Andy McCullough’s game recap in the Los Angeles Times:
“I don’t really think of luck,” Hill said. “Tomorrow, you put in the work, and it’s a new day. You just keep moving forward. That’s all there is. Sometimes, luck is disguised as that.”
From Bill Plunkett in the Orange County Register:
“If I say, ‘That’s baseball,’ it’s a cliché but that’s the way it is. That’s the way the game is,” Hill said, remarkably at peace after the wrenching way his evening ended.
“We have something bigger than any individual here that’s going on. I think that’s something we all realize. … We’re in it for the delayed gratification, not the instant gratification.”
Jesus, even when the Dodgers lose they're awesome— Dan Snierson (@dansnierson) August 24, 2017