Rich Hill's knee problem adds injury to insult

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CHICAGO - Up until there was two outs in the fifth inning Friday, everything was seemingly going as planned for the Red Sox.

The visitors were hanging on to their two-run lead with starter Rich Hill seemingly cruising along. But then came that first pitch to Wilson Contreras and that's where everything started going in the wrong direction.

On that offering, Hill said he felt something in his left knee, but decided to stay in the game. The result was a walk to Contreras, and a single from Ian Happ, with Patrick Wisdom loading the bases via a hit-by-pitch.

That was it for the Sox' starter.

By the time the sixth inning ended, the Red Sox found themselves in a one-run hole they couldn't dig themselves out from, ultimately dropping a 6-5 decision to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

And to make matters worse, after the game it didn't seem like the Hill ailment was a minor issue.

"Sore," Hill said when asked how he was feeling. "I feel stupid for staying in to be honest with you. Stubborn. Put us in a really bad position. Unfortunately, that falls on me. The stubbornness of staying in and wanting to compete and not coming out. I thought it was going to be just kind of a little tweak or whatever and pitch through it. But we’ll find out what the extent of what’s going on the next couple of days.

"I just felt a pop in my knee. But I’ve had some MCL issues before, in 2019. But I thought this might be something breaking up or some scar tissue or something like that. In the heat of the moment, being out there and competing, it was something that I thought I could pitch through."

Hill's exit came with the lefty having thrown just 75 pitches, and put the game in the hands of a Red Sox relieving corps that ultimately was stretched too far. In this case, it was Hansel Robles' continued struggles which proved decisive, with the righty giving up three runs while retiring just two batters.

“The slider is not good," noted Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "It’s kind of like a short cutter. There’s no sweeping action. He got the first two outs quick and then he battled with Simmons there. He ended up walking him. Today was a bad day for the pitching department. We walked a lot of people today. You keep giving them at-bats and at-bats and at-bats with men on and that’s going to happen. We didn’t throw enough strikes, he didn’t throw enough strikes. The homer, I think it was a slider in the heart of the plate and didn’t do much and the kid put a good swing on it.”

The manager added, "People have to step up, right? Not every day they’re going to go seven innings. Today, I think Danish made a good pitch. ON the 3-2, it was a walk and he got out of the inning, you saw Robles, it was the bottom of the lineup. We got two outs right away and then that happened. The previous inning, we got two outs right away and then they scored three. We’ve just got to do a better job as a staff."

But now all attention turns to the health of Hill, particularly with Nathan Eovaldi still sidelined and Chris Sale not able to return to the big leagues for like another 1 1/2 weeks.

"It’s never something where you come out of a game where it’s a good thing," explained Hill, who noted he experienced a MCL injury in 2019, battling through the ailment multiple times that season. "Just hoping for the best. Either way, I’ve been through a lot in this game and I know I can recover from whatever it is and be back at some point."

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