MIAMI -- Rich Hill certainly feels the magic in Miami. The left-hander struck out nine and did not walk a batter in the Dodgers' 3-2 win on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep of the Marlins. It marked the Dodgers' Major League-leading 11th sweep of the season and ninth consecutive victory.
Hill's last start at Marlins Park was nearly one for the record books. He worked seven perfect innings on Sept. 9, 2016, earning the win in a 5-0 victory. In that game, he also struck out nine and did not walk a batter.
"I like the mound," Hill said with a smile. "It's a really good mound."
Hill went five innings on Sunday, scattering five hits and giving up just one run in a 94-pitch outing (62 strikes). Hill struck out five consecutive batters after yielding his first hit, a second-inning leadoff double to Marcell Ozuna. He was touched up for three consecutive hits and a run in the fifth before working out of further trouble with a strikeout and a groundout.
While his fastball didn't top 90.1 mph, a nasty curveball averaging 74 mph kept Marlins hitters honest. He threw it 37 times and got a season-high nine swinging strikes and three called strikes on it. In fact, Hill's three highest whiff totals with his signature curve have all come in his three most recent outings.
The L.A. lefty -- who confounded opponents so often with his wide assortment of curveballs a season ago -- has been able to inject more life into his hook since the calendar flipped to July. Data collected over the first 2 1/2 seasons of Statcast™ shows that higher spin on curveballs tends to help the pitch dive and elicit more whiffs and ground balls. Hill's curveballs featured an average spin rate of 2,780 RPM before this month, but have bumped up to a 2,841 RPM average during his last three trips to the mound. That's almost the exact same spin rate Hill recorded on the pitch last season (2,837 RPM), when opponents hit just .178 and slugged just .233 against it.
"He was in complete control today, in my opinion, and some of the best stuff he's had all year," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "He likes pitching here. The fastball had the life in the zone, the swing and miss, and the breaking ball was sharp. He had great feel."
It marked Hill's second consecutive outing with nine strikeouts and no walks. He posted those same stats against the D-backs in a seven-inning no-decision on July 6.
As the temperature rises in July, Hill has sizzled on the mound. In three starts this month, Hill is 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA. He has struck out 29 batters and walked only one during that 19-inning span while giving up 11 hits and two runs.
"Last five or so outings have been really good, just attacking the hitters," said Hill, who is coming off his worst month of the season.
In June, Hill went 2-2 with a 5.04 ERA. He credits the turnaround to remaining focused.
"You've just got to keep moving forward and taking it one step at a time," Hill said. "The perseverance and the continuing to keep your head down and move forward; that's the biggest thing, making forward progress, and making sure that you stick to the process. That's the most important part."
Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com based in Miami. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.