Rich Hill has every intention of making it back onto the Los Angeles Dodgers' playoff roster despite an injury-plagued season.
Backed by Max Muncy's first career grand slam, Hill made it through two innings while pitching with a brace on his left knee and the Dodgers clinched home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs even before they beat the staggering San Diego Padres 6-3 Tuesday night.
The seven-time NL West champion Dodgers (101-56) locked up home field when the two-time NL East champion Atlanta Braves (96-62) lost 9-6 at Kansas City.
Hill struck out five in two hitless innings, reaching 1,000 for his career, in a late bid to claim a postseason roster spot. He was forced out of his last start, Sept. 12 at Baltimore, in the first inning due to left knee discomfort. The plan was to have him pitch two innings and he responded well, other than walking consecutive batters with one out in the first.
"I want to pitch. I want to help this team in the postseason," Hill said. "Hopefully I can prove that I can help the team do that. That's the main goal, is October, and I believe today was a step in the right direction. I certainly want to continue going in the right direction on Sunday."
Manager Dave Roberts said Hill will start and go three innings in the season finale at the San Francisco Giants.
"I think that it's encouraging that the door remains open," Roberts said. "Obviously the goal is to get him ready for the DS. He'll do a 'pen on the second or third day. It's open and that's a good thing for all of us. Richie, the training staff, they've worked really hard to get him to this point, back, now we've just got to hope it continues to get better each day and sustain itself."
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After he came out, Hill threw the equivalent of another inning in the bullpen.
"It was a good day for us, for Richie," Roberts said.
Muncy's 34th home run was a moon shot to right field on the first pitch by Gerardo Reyes with two outs in the fourth. Reyes came on after rookie Ronald Bolaños (0-2) walked Will Smith, allowed a single to reliever Tony Gonsolin and walked Joc Pederson.
Pederson hit his 33rd with one out in the ninth, off Michel Baez.
Gonsolin (4-2) pitched two perfect innings in relief of Hill, with three strikeouts. Kenley Jansen worked the ninth for his 31st save.
The Padres lost for the 10th time in 12 games. They were held hitless until the fifth, when they scored three runs on five hits against Dylan Floro. Luis Urias hit an RBI single and Manuel Margot hit an RBI triple and scored on a throwing error on the play by second baseman Gavin Lux.
Bolaños allowed four runs and three hits in 3 2/3 innings. He walked five and struck out four.
"He put himself in a lot of problems," Padres interim manager Rod Barajas said. "Really close to going four with only one run allowed, so he did put himself in a lot of problems, but he was able to make pitches. Unfortunately, too many pitches and the pitch count got ran up and that was it for him after he walked his fifth batter. Unfortunately, Reyes left the ball where Muncy could hit it."
HEART & HUSTLE
Rookie shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who has been out since mid-August with a stress reaction in his lower back, received the Padres' Heart & Hustle Award as voted on by the MLB Players Alumni Association. Tatis received the award from first base coach Skip Schumaker, who was the Reds' winner in 2014. The overall winner will be announced in November.
Dodgers: RHP Ross Stripling (4-4, 3.32 ERA) likely will start and pitch three innings Wednesday night. If he doesn't start, he'll be the bulk reliever.
Padres: RHP Dinelson Lamet (3-5, 3.84 ERA) will face the Dodgers for the second time in his 14 starts this season. He is coming off a 14-strikeout performance in a 2-1 win last Wednesday in Milwaukee.