ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays, on a four-game losing streak, needed a shutdown pitching performance. And that’s exactly what left-hander Rich Hill provided in Friday’s 10-5 victory over the Yankees at Tropicana Field.
Hill retired his first eight batters. Including the last out of New York’s four-run third inning, he set down his last 10 batters. He walked no one.
In the seventh inning — following an 83-pitch outing that included 61 strikes — he turned the game over to the bullpen with a five-run lead.
“Rich really locked it in,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He looked really in sync today. His strike-throwing was tremendous.”
“I feel like he was dominant and pretty much in control,” Rays third baseman Joey Wendle said. “The guys know what he’s capable of. He was dominant from start to finish. That’s encouraging for everybody.”
Hill, 41, is on his 11th major-league team. He was signed in the offseason to help compensate for the departure of veterans such as Charlie Morton and Blake Snell.
Hill has seen it all and done plenty. He knows the importance of not letting a losing streak get out of hand. The urgency of his approach helped to set a nice tone — and the Rays’ offense took that cue.
Despite Hill’s overall efficiency, though, the third inning was a strange hiccup. With two outs, the Yankees went single-double-single-homer in a 12-pitch flurry to take a 4-2 lead.
Just as quickly, though, the Rays’ offense responded and Hill shifted back into control.
The offense, again hitting its stride, was appreciative that Hill held the Yankees in check. see guys going the other way, letting the ball get deep, using their hands to use the side of the infield that’s open. It was a lot of fun to watch.”T
he offense, again hitting its stride, was appreciative that Hill held the Yankees in check.
“I have almost forgotten about it (Yankees’ four-run third inning) with the way he pitched before and after that,” Wendle said.
After the Rays took a 5-4 lead, due to the back-and-forth nature of the early game, there was the inclination to brace for another Yankees’ counterpunch.
It never happened.
In the fourth, Hill sandwiched strikeouts of Jay Bruce and Clint Frazier around a groundout from Gary Sanchez, needing only 10 pitches to finish the job. From there, the Rays padded their lead with a four-run fourth, and it was officially a runaway.
Hill also set down the Yankees 1-2-3 in each of his final two innings.
“Rich got into a nice groove with a fastball-curveball combination,” Cash said. “You could tell he was in a pretty good rhythm, pitch after pitch, strike after strike.”
Hill faced 26 batters. He threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of them. From there, he said it was a team effort.
“Mike (Zunino) did a great job behind the dish, keeping the fluidity of the game going and having the ability to get us on the same page,” Hill said. “We worked quick and threw a bunch of strikes. We played great defense. That benefitted us greatly.
“With all those things working in cohesion, having short half-innings, we put those guys (Rays’ hitters) back in the box to hit. That makes for a good game. You always want to have quick innings and to move quickly so the guys aren’t standing around behind me. It all worked together, and we made good things happen.”
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