Taylor Hill finds something to build on in 12-4 win over the Baysox

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Watching Bowie leadoff batter Adrian Marin drill his first offering into the right-centerfield gap for a stand-up triple was not the way Taylor Hill envisioned Wednesday night’s game beginning.

Hill finds himself back at Double-A Harrisburg after a miserable start to the 2017 campaign pitching for the Syracuse Chiefs. In six games at Triple-A, Hill pitched to a 9.29 ERA and allowed 52 hits including 11 home runs over only 31 innings.

When Hill was last in Harrisburg in 2013, his star was rising in the Nationals’ organization. The Vanderbilt product would make his MLB debut a year later in June and excelled that season in Syracuse compiling an 11-7 record with a 2.81 ERA. But Hill would return to upstate New York in 2015 and 2016 with somewhat diminishing returns before this season’s dilemma.

So when Marin stood 90 feet from the game’s first run, Hill could have easily fallen back into the struggles that have plagued him this year. Instead, the 28-year-old right-hander regrouped and went after the potent Bowie lineup. Hill got an infield pop-up, walked a batter, induced a shallow fly that wasn’t deep enough to even attempt scoring from third, and finally a strikeout to end the threat and strand Marin at third base.

“A first pitch triple is obviously not ideal,” Hill said. “But to get out of that, I think I was able to build on some confidence and keep it going throughout the game.”

“To leave him (Marin) out there, that was huge for him,” pitching coach Chris Michalak said.

Hill didn’t have it easy after that either. The Tennessee native struggled to get ahead of hitters and find the strike zone on a consistent basis as he walked five batters and threw only 56 strikes out of his 95 pitches.

“He obviously didn’t have his best command,” Michalak said. “But he made some really big pitches in key situations to get the meat of their order out a couple of times.”

“That’s pitching and you have to figure out how to get out of that,” Hill said. “Our defense helped me out a lot too.”

He picked up his second overall win of the season, allowing three runs on seven hits while striking out one over six innings. It wasn’t always pretty, but Hill managed to battle through some innings and the Senators’ offensive outburst took care of the rest as Harrisburg struck for multiple runs in the second, third, fourth, and fifth innings to push their lead to 11-3 and give the pitching staff some much needed breathing room.

“We know where he (Hill) should be,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “But this is part of the process to compete and battle and hopefully get some things right to get back to where he was.”

*****

Down 2-1 in the second inning, Stephen Perez came up with two men on base and two outs. It’s a spot he hasn’t been that successful at slumping to a 7-for-59 stretch to start the season. But the infielder sat on a 2-0 fastball from Bowie starter David Hess and launched it for a three-run homer, his first of the season.

For Perez, it’s the early signs that he’s slowly turning his poor start around.

“He’s basically been overhauled from spring training,” LeCroy said. “He did some things to try and hit more doubles, more home runs and it caused mechanical issues where he couldn’t compete.”

“He had a heck of a year for us last year. He played all over. He could move runners. He gave us good at-bats. He just was in a little funk mechanically and it’s good to see him get some hits and drive in runs.”

*****

Perez and Yadiel Hernandez combined to go 5-for-7 with five RBI and four runs scored as an unlikely source of production from the bottom two spots in LeCroy’s lineup.

For Hernandez, the adjustment from his native Cuba has been a slow process. “He hadn’t played in a while,” LeCroy said. “To come to a league like this one where guys throw 95, I think he felt like he had to cheat to get to the baseball. But he’s starting to make some strides.”

“The thing about him is he doesn’t swing at balls. He has an idea at the plate and gets in good counts.”

*****

Raudy Read started the scoring with a solo home run, his third of the season…Neftali Soto also went yard to match Drew Ward for the team lead with five…Andrew Robinson saw his first game action of the season with a scoreless ninth inning where he struck out two.

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