OAKLAND – There’s been one bulletproof plan for A’s manager Bob Melvin throughout this trying season — handing the ball to Rich Hill and pointing him toward the pitcher’s mound.
The 36-year-old lefty has been an every-fifth-day security blanket, the latest example coming with Monday’s 5-0 victory over Seattle at Safeco Field. Hill sliced and diced the Mariners’ lineup over eight scoreless innings, becoming just the fourth American League pitcher to reach the seven-win mark this season.
The dominant effort helped the A’s snap a four-game losing streak, as they broke open a 1-0 by batting around in a four-run eighth.
The A’s were the only team in the majors not to have a starter work more than seven innings. Hill ended that streak at a franchise-record 83 games. Before Monday, Sonny Gray was the last to work more than seven back on Aug. 22 of last season.
Hill took care of business in different fashion than most of his other outings in 2016. Usually a high strikeout guy who also racks up a high pitch count early, Hill instead pitched to contact and used that efficient approach to eat up the innings and take the load off of Oakland’s bullpen.
Hill (7-3) lowered his ERA to from 2.54 to 2.18. How important is it that he’s already notched seven victories? Consider that Hill — a journeyman now with his ninth major league organization — had just five major league victories from 2010-15.