Dodgers put season on Hill's left arm in G6

Strong but limited this postseason, southpaw tasked with helping to force decisive G7

Dodgers put season on Hill's left arm in G6

LOS ANGELES -- Rich Hill tried his best to relay the significance of taking the field at Dodger Stadium for Game 6 of the World Series, describing it as the moment "all of us have been preparing our entire careers for."

Hill can certainly relate to that more than most.

Gm Date Results Video
1 Oct. 24 LAD 3, HOU 1 Watch
2 Oct. 25 HOU 7, LAD 6 (11) Watch
3 Oct. 27 HOU 5, LAD 3 Watch
4 Oct. 28 LAD 6, HOU 2 Watch
5 Oct. 29 HOU 13, LAD 12 (10) Watch
6 Oct. 31 LAD 3, HOU 1 Watch
7 Nov. 1 HOU 5, LAD 1 Watch

The sort of injuries and setbacks that might have derailed another pitcher's career served merely as passable hurdles for the 37-year-old Hill, who now finds himself ready to oppose Astros starter Justin Verlander in the Dodgers' first must-win game of the postseason.

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A classic back-and-forth Game 5 that eventually swung the Astros' way for good when they walked off in the 10th for a 13-12 victory after Sunday had turned to Monday, precludes Hill from pitching a potential World Series clincher.

Instead, he'll try to pitch the Dodgers into one.

"Going out there in Game 6 and having the ability to be in that position, and go out there and leave everything on the field, is just an amazing thought," Hill said on Monday's off-day. "I think it's something that, looking back on it, whatever the outcome might be, that you did everything that you could to put your team in a position to win."

A win in Game 6 would do just that. Since 1985, teams returning home in a seven-game series (LCS or World Series) for Games 6-7, trailing, 3-2, have won half the time (14-of-28). Home teams that have gone on to win Game 6 are 14-2 in the deciding Game 7.

It'll be up to Hill to set the tone.

Hill fans seven in Game 2

"I think if you dig into the numbers, the second-best pitcher in baseball over the last couple of years has been Rich Hill," said teammate Justin Turner. "Obviously Clayton [Kershaw] gets a lot of the attention. And Yu [Darvish] coming over here gets a lot of attention. But Rich Hill has been unbelievable for us all year long. … I know speaking for myself, and I'm sure a lot of other guys in the clubhouse, [we] are pretty fired up that he's going to get the ball tomorrow night."

Hill's starts in the National League Division and Championship Series ended as Dodgers wins, and his World Series debut in Game 2 featured four strong innings in which he allowed one run. Hill scattered three hits and struck out seven in that effort against the Astros, who eventually won in 11 innings.

"There wasn't much not to like," Hill said. "I mean, I felt pretty good the way the ball came out of my hand. The convicted approach is really the only thing that matters to me. Trying to stay in the moment, I think that was the biggest thing."

But while it will be Hill who throws the first pitch when the Series shifts back to Los Angeles, it'll be manager Dave Roberts who ultimately decides how many pitches he'll get. Roberts has been aggressive with the deployment of his bullpen in October, and that's been especially true behind Hill.

While Hill has been knocked for only four runs on nine hits in three postseason starts, he has yet to get an opportunity to pitch past the fifth. Two of his starts, in fact, ended after four. The Dodgers have intentionally steered clear of having Hill on the mound when a lineup turns over for a third time. In those three starts, only once did Hill face a batter three times.

Roberts on Hill starting Game 6

However, Roberts hinted on Monday that he might be willing to push Hill a little deeper if the left-hander looks sharp in Game 6. Over the last four games, the Dodgers have had to lean on their bullpen to cover 21 2/3 innings. The Dodgers also have to ensure they have enough pitching left to cover 27 outs in a potential Game 7.

Thus, pulling Hill early no longer seems a luxury that they have.

"I think if you look back at the Alex Wood start and what he did for us in Game 4, I think that it's kind of the same blueprint, where you obviously have to watch the game and see how he's throwing the baseball," Roberts said when asked about Hill's leash. "Under the circumstances of Game 6, you've got to be open to pushing him, and I know he's up for the challenge."

Hill's numbers from the regular season don't support yanking him so quickly. He held opponents to a .158/.208/.200 slash line and .408 OPS the third time through the order this year.

"This is a guy that's got an amazing story," Roberts said. "He's been through so many things throughout his life, professionally, personally. And we talked about Clayton's preparation, Rich mirrors that. And just the big moment, he just has a way of just maintaining his focus. And I know that the guys in the clubhouse feel that and have confidence in Rich. And when you're in an elimination game to have him, his confidence, his demeanor, take the mound. That's a good feeling."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.