Hill begins new role vs. Giants

LOS ANGELES – Rich Hill was the No. 2 starter to Clayton Kershaw’s No. 1 as recently as last postseason, and now he finds himself in a new role with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hill will make his 2018 debut Sunday as the Dodgers’ No. 4 starter, but it still comes with honors as it will be a nationally televised game against the San Francisco Giants to conclude the first homestand of the season.

Hill will pitch Sunday evening opposite Chris Stratton.

Hill’s subpar spring has been well documented, so he is likely appreciative to face an opponent where a blueprint for success has been well established.

Sunday will be Hill’s first start at Dodger Stadium that counts since Game 6 of the World Series, when the Dodgers faced elimination. Hill gave up one run in 4 2/3 innings in that game and the Dodgers ultimately forced a Game 7 with a 3-1 victory.

“Last year was a great year and I’m just looking forward to turning the page and moving forward into 2018,” Hill said this week after his final spring start.

Hill was 12-8 with a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts in his first full season with the Dodgers, who obtained him from the Oakland Athletics at the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline. Hill was 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA in three starts against the Giants, who batted .224 (13-for-58) against him last season.

The veteran left-hander is 5-2 with a 2.43 ERA in 11 career starts against the Giants.

In the Dodgers, Stratton will face an offense that was handcuffed in the first two games of the season to the tune of zero runs and just seven hits

On Saturday, though, the Dodgers broke free with an efficient five runs on four hits and slowly they look more like the offense that has been giving the National League fits the past two seasons while getting a 5-0 victory.

And while the Giants might have won the first two games of the season, Saturday’s first defeat directed some attention on their own offensive struggles. The Giants won the first two games in 1-0 fashion on solo home runs from Joe Panik in each game and are hitting .192 (19-for-99), which is 61 points higher than the Dodgers so far

There has been zero run production elsewhere in three days for the Giants as new acquisitions Evan Longoria (0-for-11) and Andrew McCutchen (1-for-12) have yet to deliver.

Stratton did not appear in the postseason in 2017, but he would agree with Hill that it was a fine year, especially with how it ended. The right-hander allowed three runs or fewer in each of his last nine starts lasts season, closing the year with a 2.42 ERA in that stretch.

Stratton is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three career games (two starts) against Los Angeles.

He will need some run support, though, even if he can find his 2017 form. If the first 27 innings of the season were a single game, the Dodgers hold a slim 5-2 lead. And it is the Giants who are 2-1 on the season to the Dodgers 1-2.

“At this point it’s about winning games,” Panik said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s a long season. I know (our hitters) are going to come alive. For us to win games like (the first two), tough games, tight games, right out of the chute, that’s what good teams do.”

Suddenly, though, the script has been flipped. Where the questions following the first two games were all about what was wrong with the Dodgers, suddenly the suspect offense belongs to the Giants. A 2-2 opening series split will have the Dodgers feeling much better about things.

“When you’re playing NL West teams, every game is going to matter,” Panik told reporters.