LOS ANGELES – Fourteen months removed from independent ball on Long Island, Rich Hill pitched the Los Angeles Dodgers into a 2-1 NL Championship Series lead.
Hill allowed two hits in six innings to beat Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Yasmani Grandal hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning and the Dodgers defeated the Chicago Cubs 6-0 Tuesday night.
“I knew there was going to be an opportunity to get back to the big leagues as long as I stayed healthy and I felt strong,” he said. “Just perseverance. That’s it. Just continue to keep pushing through no matter what, even if you feel like you’re almost ready to give up. You never know, that next door you open might be the one that makes the difference.”
After winning a big league high 103 games during the regular season and sparking belief they could win the World Series for the first time since 1908, the Cubs have been shut out in consecutive games for the first time this year, managing just six hits – five of them singles.
“More than anything, I think we need to get a couple runs and hits and runs early to try to get that kind of feeling back,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, “because, obviously, when you’re not scoring any runs, it makes it even more difficult in the dugout.”
Hill, who pitched for the Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks in August 2015, struck out six and walked two. Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton and Kenley Jansen finished, giving the Dodgers consecutive post-season shutouts for the first time.
Julio Urias starts Game 4 for the Dodgers on Wednesday and at 20 years, 68 days will become the youngest starting pitcher in post-season history. John Lackey starts for the Cubs.
“He’s not scared of the moment,” fellow Dodgers rookie Corey Seager said of Urias. “He’s not scared of anything.”
Hill was acquired from Oakland along with Josh Reddick at the Aug. 1 trade deadline. The 36-year-old left-hander struggled with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand that landed him on the disabled list from mid-July to late August. The blister still bothered him in the final weeks of the regular season, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled him after seven perfect innings against Miami on Sept. 11.
Hill was strong from the start against one of his former teams, retiring the side to open the game and later eight in a row. He’s given up one run in 23 innings over four home starts for the Dodgers, lowering his ERA to 0.39.
“Changing speeds, pitching off the breaking ball, mixing in the fastball, yeah, he kept them off balance all night,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Seager, who had three hits, put the Dodgers ahead with an RBI single in the third, ending an 0-for-15 slide with runners in scoring position in post-season play.
Grandal was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts against Arrieta in his career before he launched a 3-2 pitch into the right-field pavilion in the fourth for a 3-0 lead. Grandal drove in Reddick, who singled and stole second and third.
Justin Turner homered on the first pitch leading off the sixth to chase Arrieta, who gave up four runs and six hits in five innings. He dominated the Dodgers in his previous two starts against them, including a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 30, 2015. Los Angeles had gone 2 for 51 against him in two two games.
Joc Pederson doubled in a run in the eighth and Grandal hit a run-scoring groundout.
Maddon moved struggling Anthony Rizzo from third to the cleanup spot and Addison Russell from fifth to seventh in the order. Jason Heyward didn’t star and struck out as a pinch-hitter.
Chicago’s 3-4-5 hitters went 1 for 11 in the game and are 2 for 32 in the series without an RBI.
Dexter Fowler’s two-out double in the eighth provided Chicago’s first extra-base hit since Game 1, which they won 8-4.
Four of Chicago’s eight shutouts this year have been against the Dodgers.
Roberts hasn’t ruled out turning to Clayton Kershaw to pitch on three days’ rest in Game 5 on Thursday.
Los Angeles has announced rookie Kenta Maeda as its starter. He’s given up seven earned runs in a combined seven innings of his two post-season starts.
In last week’s five-game Division Series against Washington, Kershaw pitched in all three wins. He started Game 1 and Game 4, on three days’ rest and got his first big league save in Game 5.
“The series circumstances will kind of dictate what decision we make,” Roberts said Tuesday. “Clayton feels good after Game 2. He’s prepared for anything that we have for him. He’s shown the ability to adjust his routine or regimen for whatever is best for our club.”
Lackey is 8-5 with a 3.22 ERA in 24 post-season appearances. Urias will be the third consecutive left-hander to start for the Dodgers. He earned the victory over Washington in Game 5 of the NLDS with two scoreless innings.