There is a time to stand up for your teammates, for justice, for what you believe to be right.
This, presumably, was not that time. This was the , and an elimination game at that. So that might have been the greatest testament to what did Tuesday: He put his sense of right and wrong ahead of winning and losing, at least for a few moments.
It had been four days since Yuli Gurriel of the had slanted his eyes and used a racial slur to mock , the ’ Japanese-born pitcher.
Hill still was bothered that Commissioner Rob Manfred had decided not to suspend Gurriel during the World Series.
“I think, if you’re in any other type of business and you do something like that, you wouldn’t have a job the next day,” Hill said.
Hill drew the start in the Dodgers’ first home game since then, and he arrived at Dodger Stadium with two priorities. He wanted to keep the Dodgers’ season alive, of course, but he also wanted to oblige a Dodger Stadium crowd that would dispense all the punishment Gurriel would get this year. The five-game suspension Manfred imposed on Gurriel does not start until next season.
With his every at-bat on Tuesday, and with every pitch of every at-bat, the crowd unleashed a fury of boos upon Gurriel. This was a level of sustained vocal disdain that Dodger Stadium never had mustered for Barry Bonds.
And Hill was Gustavo Dudamel, with a ball rather than a baton, silently conducting the crowd, pausing time and again to let a cascade of boos rain down upon Gurriel.
Hill stepped off the mound so the crowd could jeer, made a pitch, stepped off the mound for another round of jeers, made another pitch. He turned into a veritable Pedro Baez, lingering between pitches so the crowd could rev up its vocal cords once again.
“I think the one thing was just to let the crowd speak their mind,” Hill said. “I didn’t think anything else would be as loud as that. The people spoke. I left it to that, and that was it.
“That was the best way to go about it, not hitting him or doing anything like that, but making sure that things like this shouldn’t happen.”
The risk, of course, was that Hill would throw off his own timing. Hill said he was willing to take that risk, given that the fans were willing to do what the league would not: deliver the message at the World Series, when the whole world is watching.
“It’s something that was just and understandable, from every Dodger fan — and not only Dodger fans, but people all over the world,” Hill said.
Hill did precisely what the Dodgers had hoped: take two runs through the Houston lineup, and leave his team in position to win, which the Dodgers did 3-1. In his four postseason starts, he faced 18 batters twice and 19 batters twice — including on Tuesday, when his 19th and last batter was an intentional walk. He pitched 42/3 innings and gave up one run, a home run by .
There might come a time when he takes public offense to the team-imposed limits on his use. The World Series was not that time.
“It’s irrelevant in this situation,” he said. “We had to win. We won. We’re moving on to Game 7.”
Hill had waited his whole life for this World Series moment.
Three years ago, he put up an earned-run average of infinity for the Angels. Two years ago, he was pitching for the . He rediscovered his curveball and resuscitated his career.
The Dodgers traded three pitching prospects to get him 16 months ago — not elite prospects, perhaps, but still three pretty decent arms, no small consideration for a front office that believes the key to sustained success is replenishing the roster with a steady supply of young players.
They committed $48 million to retain him, the most money lavished on any starting pitcher in free agency last winter. And he will be 39 when the deal expires, no small consideration for a front office wary of paying off the contracts of older players whose performance has deserted them.
To get from there to here, and to within one victory of a parade?
“It’s an incredible feeling,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing, the only thing that matters: the team. When you do lose your identity for the team, that’s what’s most important. Understanding that here in L.A. has really been an incredible journey, with all these guys in the locker room.”
He said he was not at all nervous, recounting what he had told himself as he prepared for Tuesday’s game.
“When you look back in 10, 20 years — hopefully, I’m still around by then — what will you look back on?” Hill said. “All I said was, don’t have any regrets. That was really it. And that really calmed everything.”
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