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Former Oriole Rich Hill steals NLCS spotlight in Dodgers' Game 3 win

A pair of former Orioles helped lift the Dodgers to a Game 3 NLCS victory Tuesday night.

A former Orioles pitcher was the hero of Tuesday’s National League Championship Series Game 3, but it wasn’t the one you might expect.

Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill, whose one-year tenure with the Orioles was a forgettable one, gave Los Angeles a 2-1 series lead in the NLCS with six scoreless innings. He outpitched reigning NL Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta, another former Oriole, in a 6-0 Dodgers win.

Hill pitched just one year with the Orioles, posting a 3-3 record and a 7.80 ERA in 2009. He missed most of spring training that year and spent the season’s first 36 games on the disabled list with a left elbow strain. After just 14 games (13 starts), Hill was shelved for the season with labrum surgery that August.

Instead of transferring Hill from the 60-day DL back to the 40-man roster, the Orioles instead attempted to send him to the minors, but he refused an outright assignment to Triple-A and became a free agent.

His last start for the Orioles, on July 27, 2009, would be his last major league start for more than six years. Hill had Tommy John surgery in 2011 and bounced around until the Red Sox plucked him from the independent Long Island Ducks last season, giving him the stage for an impressive four-start September stint that netted Hill a one-year, $6-million free agent deal with the Oakland A’s in the offseason. Though the Orioles had interest in Hill at the trade deadline, the Dodgers ultimately acquired him.

On Tuesday, Hill threw his curveball nearly 55 percent of the time, and while the only two hits he allowed came on curveballs, it was clear that his ability to establish his breaking ball allowed him to keep the Cubs hitters off balance. The Cubs were just 2-for-14 on batted balls in play.

Tuesday marked the biggest start in Hill’s career, not only because he gave the Dodgers a lead in the NLCS, but also because coming through on the postseason stage can only help his free-agent future this offseason in a thin starting pitching market. Hill will be 37 next March, but he’s showing he doesn’t need to throw hard – his fastball rarely cracked 91 mph – to be effective.

While we’re on the subject of former Orioles, Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner also played an important role in Tuesday’s game, homering to lead off the sixth inning and chasing Arrieta from the game.

Turner played in just 17 games with the Orioles from 2009-10 after coming to Baltimore at part of the trade that sent catcher Ramon Hernandez in Cincinnati.

He showed promise, compiling a .300/.362/.388 hitting line at Triple-A Norfolk in 2009, but never completely latched on the Orioles, and was claimed off waivers by the Mets in May of 2010.

Turner took advantage of having an every-day role for the first time this year in L.A., as he hit a career-high 27 homers and 90 RBIs in 151 regular season games. Like Hill, he is helping his free-agent stock, as Turner, who will turn 32 next month, figures to be one of the top third baseman options on the open market this offseason.  

eencina@baltsun.com
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