The Boston Red Sox saw the return of second baseman Trevor Story on Saturday, securing a 5-1 win to take their series against the Tampa Bay Rays — but Rich Hill stole the show at Fenway Park.
The 42-year-old went seven-scoreless innings, striking out 11 while working with the quickest pace of any Red Sox starter this season. Boston cruised to victory after putting up four runs in the first inning, making it a smooth-sailing afternoon for manager Alex Cora, who had a joyous time watching Hill pitch.
“He was excellent. Great tempo, good fastball, kept them off balance. Really good performance on a day that we needed length. He was great,” Cora said, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “… The cutter was really good today. They loaded up with righties, but he knows how to pitch. We’ve been talking about that, he’s going to get the ball every five days and that was really good.”
Hill got nine days of rest through this turn in the rotation, with his last start having come on Aug. 17. The time off allowed Hill to tweak some things and get inventive with his approach. Something that was on full display Saturday afternoon.
“He was pounding the zone, working from ahead, changing speed. He was great, it was fun to watch,” Cora said. “
Here are more notes from Saturday’s Red Sox-Rays game:
— Hill’s break-neck pace was much appreciated, leading to a two-hour and 23-minute game between the Red Sox and Rays. Trevor Story talked to Tom Caron about that pace following the game.
“I love that tempo right there,” Story said. “Obviously, it puts a lot of pressure on their offense. He was throwing the ball really well. Loved playing behind him.”
— In the last nine starts by non-rookies, the Red Sox pitching staff has combined for a 2.11 earned run average over 55 1/3 innings pitched, per Red Sox senior manager of media relations and baseball information J.P. Long.
— Hill became the 5th pitcher in MLB history to have 11 or more strikeouts in a game at 42-years-old or older, joining Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Gaylord Perry and Roger Clemens, per Boston Sports Info on Twitter. He spoke about the performance following the game.
“I enjoyed working quick, I think the guys on defense love it, it keeps them on their toes and it keeps the action going,” Hill said, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “Kevin (Plawecki) did a great job behind the dish tonight, and it was a good ballgame.”
Plawecki returned the compliment to Hill, saying, “That was a lot fun. It was great. His pace was incredible, he threw whatever I called. Amazing,” per The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.
— The Red Sox and Rays will finish their three-game set on Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. ET, and you can watch the game, plus an hour of pregame coverage, with NESN 360.