Rich Hill rewards Luis Rojas’ confidence will stellar Mets outing

Rich Hill turned in his longest start as a Met in Friday’s 6-2 win over the Nationals, stringing together six scoreless innings to help keep his team’s win streak alive.

In his previous six starts since the Rays traded him to the Mets on July 23, Hill had not pitched past the fifth inning — which he did five times. But manager Luis Rojas’ decision to let Hill ride it out Friday night paid off, as the left-hander held Washington to just three hits while recording two walks and four strikeouts.

“The whole thing is just the creativity as the game is kind of presenting what it is showing you as a pitcher, as a conductor,” Hill said of getting to face the heart of the Nationals’ lineup three times in the win, which pulled the Mets within four games of the first-place Braves in the NL East lead after Atlanta lost to the Rockies on Friday.

“You saw a variation of a lot of different things out of my mechanics tonight. It wasn’t necessarily just a traditional leg lift and a pitch and the timing was all the same. Trying to disrupt the timing is the whole art of pitching.”

Rich Hill
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Though the Nationals helped him out with some abysmal base running, it was easily Hill’s most impressive outing since joining the Mets. His six-inning performance was also the eighth time this season he went at least that far; the first seven came while he was with the Rays.

Hill’s most crucial stretch of the night came in the sixth inning. He walked center fielder Lane Thomas leading, but struck out Alcides Escobar for the first out, with Juan Soto coming to the plate. Hill already had kept the Nationals star off the bases in his two previous at-bats, and he did it again, getting Soto to fly out to right field.

First basemen Josh Bell grounded into the force out to cap Hill’s night, which ended with the Mets ahead 2-0.

“Soto is not an easy hitter to face, especially three times in a game, and he did,” Rojas said. “He used everything in the book, the fastball first at-bat by him for the strikeout and then he starts mixing again and getting the curveball just for weaker contact. He’s got so much pitch ability, he comes with the experience of course and stuff that plays well.”

After making quick work of the first two innings, Hill gave up a double to Luis Garcia in the third. The Nationals shortstop made the mistake of taking a big lead off second, however, prompting Hill to close in on him — which led to Garcia getting run down for the second out. Thomas then popped out to left to end the inning.

Hill struck out the side in the fourth and worked out of a minor jam in the fifth, after he walked catcher Riley Adams and gave up another double to Garcia to put runners on first and third. Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz, who was pinch hitting, then popped out to Javier Baez.

Over his last six appearances, Hill has a 3.25 ERA over 27 ²/₃ innings. He currently owns a 4.83 ERA, allowing 17 earned runs, and has struck out 24 since joining the Mets.