PITTSBURGH – Rich Hill walked off the mound, toward the Los Angeles Dodgers dugout, and to his right the Pirates piled on Josh Harrison at home plate. Hill carried a no-hitter for 27 outs Wednesday night at PNC Park, and still he lost. Harrison clobbered a leadoff, walk-off home run in the 10th inning, breaking a scoreless deadlock and Hill’s no-hit bid in a 1-0 Pirates win.
Hill allowed one hit in nine-plus innings. He struck out 10.
Harrison became the first player in history to end a no-hit bid with a walk-off home run in extra innings.
Dodgers third baseman Logan Forsythe scotched the perfect game by booting Jordy Mercer’s ground ball leading off the ninth inning. It was the first time in major league history a bid for perfection was broken up by a ninth-inning error. Hill had been hunting for the second perfect game in Dodgers history. The other was thrown by Sandy Koufax Sept. 9, 1965.
Right-hander Trevor Williams wasn’t perfect, but he matched Hill’s zeroes. The rookie tossed eight scoreless innings for his best start this season. He allowed seven hits and walked four, one intentionally, hit one batter and struck out five. Williams hurled a career-high 114 pitches. Left-hander Felipe Rivero took over in the ninth and worked a scoreless inning.
Before the game, manager Clint Hurdle was asked how familiar he was with Hill’s story. Hurdle knew “cliff notes” version, he said. In 2015, after a decade as a journeyman shuttling between the majors and minors, Hill landed with the Long Island Ducks, an independent ball club. That winter, he signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Athletics. Hill’s career was reborn.
Hill was traded to the Dodgers at the trade deadline last year and posted a 1.83 ERA in eight regular-season starts, including one where he was lifted after seven perfect innings – the first time in major league history a manager pulled a pitcher so close to a perfect game. Hill had been hounded by blisters on his fingers. They sent him to the disabled list again this spring.
Once the offseason commenced – the Dodgers bowed out after the National League Championship Series – Hill, at 37, re-signed on a three-year, $48 million free agent contract.
“That’s the kind of story that could get made into a movie someday,” Hurdle said.
One missing piece, which may have been taken from Hill last year, was a perfect game.
Hill bedeviled batters from the outset Wednesday. Starling Marte was the first victim, whiffing on one of Hill’s trademark 75 mph curveballs for the Pirates’ first out. The next batter, Harrison, went down swinging at a fastball at the letters and off the plate away. Hill’s pitch count was at nine after one inning, 22 after two, 34 after three and 39 after four.
The Dodgers defense offered Hill its aid on the rare occasions he needed it. When Harrison attempted to bunt for a perfecto-busting base hit in the fourth, Adrian Gonzalez, the aging first baseman, lurched forward and made a sliding catch on the infield grass.
While the baseball stirred, tuning in to catch Hill’s pursuit of perfection, Williams wasn’t wilting either. He discovered there to be relatively smooth sailing through the first three innings. After back-to-back singles to start the fourth, Williams retired Chase Utley and Logan Forsythe. Austin Barnes was intentionally walked, loading the bases, and Hill lined out to shortstop.
Double plays cut short the next two innings for Williams. He stranded two runners on base in the seventh, then saved his best work for the eighth. Curtis Granderson drew a leadoff walk. Puig was hit by pitch with one out. Utley flied out on the sixth pitch, and Forsythe followed with a 10-pitch fistfight. It ended with a scorched line drive which Jordy Mercer leaped to snare.
Utley answered immediately. The 38-year-old second baseman dived to his left and robbed Josh Bell of a line-drive single to start the eighth. The last at-bat of the innings was lengthy and contentious. Hill got two quick strikes on Sean Rodriguez, who then watched three consecutive balls. Hill’s seventh offering hummed at 88 mph. Rodriguez believed it was inside. The umpire did not. The perfect game through 24 outs. Mercer, Chris Stewart and a pinch-hitter remained.
Mercer ended the perfect game. Harrison ended the ballgame.
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