Rich Hill didn’t have his best showing on Friday, but he had something more important at stake than leading the basement-dweller Red Sox to a meaningless win. He was trying to stay on the right side of history.
Aaron Judge went into Game 2 of this series still in search of home run No. 61, which would tie Roger Maris’ record for most homers by an American League player in a single season. He didn’t get much of a chance on Thursday, with the Red Sox walking him three times in five plate appearances — although, he did almost take Matt Barnes deep.
On Friday, Hill took a different approach. He went right at Judge — and survived. The left-hander punched out Judge twice in three plate appearances, and somehow managed to keep a fly ball to left in the park.
Now, Hill still secured himself a special spot in history with this performance. Rather than be immortalized as the pitcher who gave up No. 61 to Judge, he has solidified himself among the few who’ve faced both Judge and Barry Bonds without giving up a home run.
Among active pitchers, Hill is the only one to have faced both hitters. (Somehow, Adam Wainwright debuted in 2005 and never saw Bonds.) Across history, there haven’t been many who faced both, either. Bonds retired in 2007, Judge began his MLB career in 2016. Judge has obviously only been in the AL to this point, whereas Bonds spent his whole career in the NL — and for almost half his career, interleague play wasn’t a thing. Finding the crossover is like finding a need in a haystack.
Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, Yovani Gallardo and Edwin Jackson all faced both Bonds and Judge without giving up a home run — some in more impressive fashion than others. After Friday’s outing, Hill will forever be featured among this odd grouping.