Rich Hill needed only two starts to etch his name into the Ducks' record book.
The 6-5 southpaw, who made 14 relief appearances for the Yankees last year, struck out 14 in six innings in the Ducks' 4-3 loss to the Camden Riversharks on Sunday night at Bethpage Ballpark. That strikeout total matched the franchise record set by Mike Loree on Sept. 15, 2011, at Southern Maryland. Ducks pitchers totaled 20 strikeouts, two shy of the franchise record.
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Hill, 35, allowed two hits, two walks and no runs before the Riversharks scored twice in the seventh and twice in the eighth against the bullpen. "Outstanding," manager Kevin Baez said of Hill. "Unbelievable. What could you say? I mean, the kid's been pitching outstanding for us."
Hill, who played for six teams in 10 major-league seasons, began 2015 with the Syracuse Chiefs, the Washington Nationals' Triple-A affiliate. He had a 2.91 ERA and struck out 32 batters in 21 2/3 innings out of the bullpen but also walked 21. The Nationals released him June 24. He signed with the Ducks on July 28 and threw five hitless, scoreless innings in his debut Aug. 2.
After walking Camden leadoff hitter Michael Rockett, Hill bounced back to strike out the side in the first. The Riversharks did not hit a ball into fair territory until the third, when Rockett grounded softly to Hill with two outs. Hill double-clutched and threw late to first, ending his hitless streak to begin his Ducks tenure at 7 2/3 innings.
Hill, who struck out at least two batters in every inning except the sixth, displayed solid command of his fastball and curveball. "For me, that's really the main key, especially my fastball command," he said.
Hill came up to the majors as a starter in 2005 and went 11-8 with a 3.92 ERA for the Cubs in 2007. He last started in 2009 for Baltimore. "I think this has been a great opportunity for me to showcase myself again as a starter," said Hill, who added his goal is to earn another MLB contract.
Mike Blanke had a two-out RBI single in the first and Anthony Vega added an RBI triple in the sixth for a 2-0 Ducks lead. Camden tied it in the seventh on a home run by Daniel Rockett and an RBI double by Michael Rockett off Nick Struck. RBI singles by Jose Gil and Eric Frain off Ryan Kussmaul in the eighth gave the Riversharks a 4-3 lead.
The Ducks (13-16, 59-40 overall) fell five games behind Liberty Division-leading Bridgeport in the second-half standings.