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By Jon Weisman
I guess my wife and I picked the wrong day to take the family to Disneyland.
Exactly 51 years and one day after Sandy Koufax threw the last perfect game by a Dodger pitcher, Rich Hill nearly did the same (in a 5-0 Dodger victory). And in the process, he became the first Dodger pitcher since Hiroki Kuroda in 2008 to throw seven perfect innings — and the first ever to do so without facing another batter.
The controversy arose from the latter fact. In the overnight chatter since Hill was removed, many have had a chance to weigh in, and so with the Dodgers’ next game already about to start, I’m just going to highlight a few points …
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1) Dave Roberts was clearly gutted over the decision, and anyone who thinks he didn’t respect the game’s history or the personal stakes for Hill is letting their frustration blind them.
“I feel sick to my stomach,” Roberts said, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
“For me, talking to the training staff and getting their advice, just weighing it all out, it’s what’s best for Rich and the Dodgers. It’s the toughest thing I’ve had to do, but I know it was for the reason of giving us the best chance to win a World Series. A lot of fans in Los Angeles are really upset with me, I’m sure.”
Roberts offered further reflections this morning.
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2) Technically, this wasn’t the first time Hill left a start this year without allowing a baserunner. On July 17, he took the mound for Oakland — and then had to leave when his blister problem became untenable during warmups. And it’s that reality that Roberts was dealing with.
So even though he didn’t hide his displeasure when he was taken out of the game, Hill held no grudges.
“I understand,” Hill said. “I hold Dave in the highest regard. He’s in a tough position. I get it. I’m very adamant about living in the moment. I didn’t want to come out of the game, right? But there’s a bigger picture here, and we all know what it is. Put Dave in a very difficult position. Something you look at it and move on. That’s all you can do. We’re in the middle of this race and continue to move forward, that’s the best way I can put it.”
Nobody would want to come out in that situation..however it will be nice to have one of the best pitchers in baseball healthy going forward.
— Brett Anderson (@BAnderson3737) September 11, 2016
3) For you Dodger completists, Hill became the 11th starting pitcher in team history not to allow a baserunner. Among the previous 10, Koufax threw a complete game, Orel Hershiser 2 1/3 innings (on the 28th anniversary of Koufax’s perfecto), and the other eight pitchers (including Hershiser again) had one inning each.
4) Hill’s delayed debut with the Dodgers has been nothing short of extraordinary — 0.00 ERA and only eight baserunners in 19 innings with 20 strikeouts –and unprecedented. As Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. noted, Hill is the first pitcher since at least 1913 to begin his Dodger career with three consecutive scoreless starts.
Hill has allowed one hit to opposing batters in their last 48 at-bats, dating to August 24, according to the Dodger public relations department.
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5) Yasiel Puig, whose arm usually keeps him in right or center field, made his third career start in left field (the other two came in his June 2013 debut month) and made the game’s signature play, this all-out catch to preserve the perfect game with two out in the seventh.
“There might have been a little bit of me that wouldn’t have been upset if the ball had dropped,” Roberts said, according to Andy McCullough of the Times.
As I tracked the game on my dying phone somewhere outside Space Mountain, I had my own sympathies with Roberts.
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Here are some other quick notes …
- The Dodgers hit four more home runs — Justin Turner (26), Yasmani Grandal (25) and two by Joc Pederson (22). Along with Corey Seager (25), Pederson has put the Dodgers within range of having four 25-homer hitters since Mike Piazza (40), Eric Karros (31), Todd Zeile (31) and Raul Mondesi (30) each hit at least 30, as Dodgers PR noted.
- Seager and his brother Kyle are the first pair of MLB siblings to each hit 25 homers in the same year, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
- In his official 2016 debut, Andre Ethier grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth inning. Ethier, who is making his first start today, is the Dodgers’ 55th player this season, tying the franchise record set in 2015.
- To make room on the 40-man roster for Ethier, the Dodgers designated Casey Fien for assignment. Fien had a 4.21 ERA and 1.21 WHIP with 23 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings for the Dodgers.
Finally, these results from the minor leagues Saturday, as recapped by Dodgers PR:
- Triple-A Oklahoma City beat Nashville 7-1 last night behind Alfredo Figaro (seven innings, one run) and home runs by Corey Brown, Cody Bellinger and Jack Murphy. The winner of Game 5 at 4:35 PT today will play in the Pacific Coast League championship series against either El Paso or Tacoma.
- Single-A Great Lakes was victorious last night by a 5-2 score over Bowling Green and will move on to the Midwest League championship, which starts tonight against Western Michigan.
- Rookie-level Ogden won, 7-4, over the Orem Owlz in Game 2 of their best-of-three series. This afternoon at 3:05 PT, the Raptors will play for the chance to move on to the Pioneer League finals.