What we learned Wednesday: Rich Hill pads Dodgers' lead, Jose Fernandez stops Royals

1. It’s a Rich Hill sighting, and the view was great. The Dodgers gave up three good prospects to acquire Hill and Josh Reddick from the A’s at the trade deadline, but hadn’t received any value yet. Hill hadn’t pitched because of a blister issue, and Reddick is hitting .143 with no RBIs in 70 at-bats. Yes, good thing they dumped Yasiel Puig back to the minors to clear room for Reddick. But I digress …

Hill finally made his Dodgers debut and was terrific in outdueling Johnny Cueto in a 1-0 victory, Justin Turner’s fourth-inning home run providing the only run. The Giants discovered what American League hitters already learned this year: It’s hard to hit this guy, as he hides the ball so well with a deceptive motion. Even though he sits at 90, 91 mph with his fastball, Hill has 93 strikeouts in 82 innings and has allowed just 60 hits. He’s good, which is why the Dodgers were willing to pay a steep price to get him.

In the bigger picture, the Dodgers have taken the first two games of the series and now lead the National League West by a season-high three games, while it's starting to look like desperate times for the Giants, who held a 6.5-game lead at the All-Star break. The Dodgers have survived even though they’ve now used 14 different starting pitchers, tied for the most in the majors, and the NL hierarchy is looking like this: Cubs, then Nationals/Dodgers, then the other playoff contenders.

2. Jose Fernandez breaks Royals' winning streak. And by break, we mean the Marlins' ace snapped the Royals' nine-game streak by dominating with his breaking balls and striking out nine in seven scoreless innings. From Kenneth Woolums of ESPN Stats & Information:

  • Fernandez held the Royals to one hit in 12 at-bats ending in a breaking pitch. He recorded eight of his nine strikeouts with either his slider or curveball, his most combined with those pitches since July 18 versus the Phillies.

  • Fernandez induced a 39.3 percent chase rate, his highest in any start this season. The Royals were 1-for-11 in at-bats ending on a pitch outside of the strike zone.

It was a much-needed stellar outing from Fernandez, who entered with a 4.60 ERA over his previous eight starts. The movement Fernandez gets on his breaking stuff is seen in this number: 44.7 percent, the chase rate he gets on those two pitches. The only starters with a higher chase rate on their breaking balls are Michael Pineda (46.6 percent), Corey Kluber (45.9 percent) and Zack Greinke (45.8 percent).

Fernandez also broke the franchise record for K's in a season (Ryan Dempster held the mark). The Marlins also acquired outfielder Jeff Francoeur from the Braves in a three-team deal with the Rangers. Francoeur has a .273/.313/.421 line against left-handers, so he's merely outfield insurance or maybe platoons with Ichiro Suzuki in right field.

3. Rangers win another one-run game. They're now 28-8 in one-run games, winning 6-5 on Wednesday as Yu Darvish hit one of the team's three home runs off Reds rookie Tim Adleman.

That's another of way saying the Rangers are 74-53 even though they've been outscored by one run in total this season. Their bullpen is 27th in the majors with a 4.77 ERA, not a number you'd usually associate with a good record in one-run games. In this game, however, the bullpen was excellent as Darvish coughed up a 5-2 lead. The bullpen trio of Jake Diekman, Matt Bush and Sam Dyson tossed three hitless innings, and Adrian Beltre's two-out double in the eighth plated the winning run. By the way, if Beltre coming through late in a close game seems familiar, he's hitting .373 in "late and close" situations.

That Texas bullpen? Despite that ERA they lead the majors with 30 wins.

4. Tough day for the Red Sox. David Ortiz became the oldest player to hit 30 home runs in a season, but it was otherwise a gloomy day for the Red Sox (other than the Blue Jays also losing). First, Andrew Benintendi sprained his knee on a bad piece of a base running. The rookie outfielder was on second when a ground ball was chopped to shortstop. Even though he had already passed the fielder, for some reason he turned back to second base and, as he tried to avoid the tag, twisted his knee and ankle. Check tomorrow for the update on his status.

Then Evan Longoria homered off Rick Porcello in the eighth to tie the game -- Porcello's 113th pitch of the game. Did John Farrell ask too much of Porcello? He'd retired 11 in a row at that point, so you can see Farrell's thinking, and we can certainly overreact to the artificial round number of 100. The bigger cause for debate is, it was the fourth time through the order. Brad Ziegler and Craig Kimbrel each pitched Tuesday, but both had two days off before that, so bullpen fatigue didn't seem like an issue. I'm not going to fault Farrell too much here, but Porcello did throw a bad curveball that Longoria hammered.

Anyway, the game went 11 innings and the Red Sox lost on a walk-off error, the third time that has happened this season (no other team has more than one such defeat). In the replay, you'll see that Luke Maile was originally called out, but the call was reversed.

5. Gary Sanchez homers again. The Yankees beat the Mariners 5-0 as Masahiro Tanaka threw his second straight scoreless outing. But the big story was rookie catcher Sanchez homering again, his ninth in 19 games. He hit 10 in Triple-A all season. His line is now .389/.450/.847.

The Yankees are five games out of the wild card and are 13-9 in August. Maybe they should have called the kids up earlier.