Rich Hill’s return to Major League Baseball could not have gone much better.
The veteran left-hander twirled a gem for the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, neutralizing the Tampa Bay Rays for seven masterful innings. Hill did everything but earn the victory, as the Red Sox needed 13 innings to knock off the Rays 2-0 in the rubber match of their three-game series.
GAME IN A WORD
Making his first major league start since 2009 and his first appearance in a Red Sox uniform since 2012, Hill was nothing short of dominant. The Milton, Mass., native did not allow a run in his seven innings of work. He surrendered just one hit, walked one batter and hit two others while striking out 10.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
The Red Sox smacked four consecutive singles in the top of the 13th inning, including one off the bat of Rusney Castillo that plated the game’s only two runs.
Robbie Ross Jr. kept the Rays off the board in the home half of the frame to shut the door.
ON THE BUMP
— Hill showed no signs of rust despite having not started a major league game in more than six years. The 35-year-old retired the side in order in the first, fourth and sixth innings, and worked around a walk in the second and hit batsmen in the third and fifth to keep the Rays off the board.
An infield single by J.P. Arencibia in the third was Tampa Bay’s only hit during those first six frames, and a closer look at the play showed that the official scorer might have made a mistake in not assessing an error to shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
Hill came back out to work the seventh with his pitch count at 98 and blew the Rays away again, striking out Steven Souza Jr. and Richie Shaffer and getting Tim Beckham to ground out to the mound.
— Jean Machi needed just 10 pitches to complete a perfect eighth. He retired the first batter of the ninth, as well, before giving way to Noe Ramirez.
— Ramirez retired the final two batters in the ninth, then walked Souza on four pitches to open the home half of the 10th. After getting Tim Beckham to fly out to left, he was relieved by Tommy Layne.
— Layne induced a flyout, walked a batter, then ran the count full to pinch hitter Joey Butler before striking him out to end the inning.
— Alexi Ogando worked a 1-2-3 11th.
— Heath Hembree allowed a one-out double in the 12th but, after an intentional walk, got pinch hitter John Jaso to ground into an inning-ending double play.
IN THE BATTER’S BOX
— The Red Sox put a runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings but were unable to push a run across against Rays starter Drew Smyly.
Bogaerts singled in the first, and Rusney Castillo followed with a base hit of his own in the second. Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a third-inning single, and Bogaerts worked a two-out walk two batters later.
The Red Sox also stole three bases during those first three innings — two by Bogaerts and one by Betts.
— Boston had trouble making contact against Smyly, who struck out 11 in just six innings of work.
— Allen Craig went 1-for-6 with three strikeouts but did snap an 0-for-19 slump with a single in the seventh. It was Craig’s first hit in the majors since May 4. Deven Marrero followed that up with a base hit of his own, but Sandy Leon and Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out consecutively to end the threat.
It was not a good day at the office for the bottom of the Red Sox’s order, as Leon and Bradley went a combined 0-for-10 with seven strikeouts. Leon also popped out while trying to bunt for the first out of the 10th inning.
— Marrero and Betts both singled in the 10th but were stranded when Dustin Pedroia grounded to shortstop for the third out. Castillo roped a two-out double an inning later, but he, too, was unable to score.
— David Ortiz, who hit his 500th career home run Saturday night, was held out of the lineup Sunday. Pablo Sandoval also got the afternoon off — Marrero started at third base in his place — and Leon started behind the plate for the first time since Sept. 2.
TWEET OF THE GAME
The Red Sox continue their American League East road trip Monday when they begin a series with the Baltimore Orioles.
Thumbnail photo via Jeff Griffith/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rich Hill during a game against Tampa Bay.
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