The New York Mets rotation that Rich Hill will officially join Sunday might be even more vulnerable than it was when the club acquired him Friday.
The veteran left-hander will look to provide a steadying hand in his Mets debut Sunday afternoon, when he is slated to take the mound in the rubber match of a three-game series against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays.
Hill (6-4, 3.87 ERA with the Tampa Bay Rays this year) is the oldest pitcher in the game at 41. He is scheduled to oppose one of his many former teammates, Toronto right-hander Ross Stripling (3-6, 5.04 ERA). Hill and Stripling played together with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2016-19.
The Blue Jays snapped a three-game losing streak Saturday night, when Teoscar Hernandez hit two of Toronto's five homers in a 10-3 rout.
A second straight rough start for New York All-Star Taijuan Walker magnified the lack of depth in the Mets' rotation. The starting staff is anchored by Walker, Marcus Stroman and surprising rookie Tylor Megill while two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, former All-Star Noah Syndergaard and 2017 American League wins leader Carlos Carrasco are all on the injured list.
While Stroman and Megill combined to throw 14 scoreless innings against the Cincinnati Reds and Toronto on Wednesday and Friday, Walker has given up 12 runs (11 earned) over his past two starts, a span of just 4 1/3 innings in which his ERA has risen from 2.50 to 3.43.
The Mets hope Hill -- who joined the team Saturday, a little more than 24 hours after he was obtained from the Rays in exchange for injured reliever Tommy Hunter and minor league catcher Matt Dyer -- can continue the late-career surge he has enjoyed since 2015.
Hill is 49-26 with a 3.07 ERA in 114 games (113 starts) since turning 35 after going 24-22 with a 4.72 ERA in 197 games (70 starts) from 2005-14.
"He came in and threw, felt great," Mets manager Luis Rojas said Saturday night of Hill. "He's very excited to be here and is ready to go (Sunday) for us."
Hill's task is to quiet a lineup that busted out of a brief slump Saturday, when the reshuffled Blue Jays hit at least five homers for the sixth time this season. Only one other team, Atlanta, has more than three four-homer games. The Braves accomplished the feat for the fourth time Saturday.
The top six batters in the Blue Jays' lineup went a combined 13-for-29 (.448) with the five homers and 10 RBIs. George Springer, batting first for the first time since May 2, homered, as did Marcus Semien and Bo Bichette, who were batting third and fourth, respectively, for the first time this season.
"We felt like it was time to make a move," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. "They all had good at-bats, they all did what we thought they could do in their spots. It worked out great tonight, for sure."
Hill hasn't started since July 18, when he didn't factor into the decision after giving up three runs over four innings as the visiting Rays beat the Atlanta Braves 7-5.
Stripling endured the shortest start of his career Monday, when he took the loss after giving up six runs over one-third of an inning as the Blue Jays lost to the host Boston Red Sox 13-4.
Hill is 1-2 with a 4.88 ERA in 12 career games (five starts) against the Blue Jays. Stripling is 0-0 with a 6.75 ERA in two relief appearances against the Mets.
--Field Level Media