PITTSBURGH – I used to laugh at the phrase “it’s hell to get old” when I was younger.
Did things really get so bad as someone got older?
In some ways, they do.
I’m 59. Sometimes, it hurts to get up out of a chair. Other times, I get irritated by stupid things more easily than I used to.
However, Rich Hill gives hope to all of us “old guys.” At 43, the Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander just keeps on going as the oldest player in the major leagues.
Granted, Hill did not pitch well Tuesday night in the Pirates’ 6-1 loss to the Texas Rangers at PNC Park. He allowed five runs and seven hits in 5.1 innings while also balking in a run.
Hill also had nine strikeouts, though. That may not seem like a big deal in today’s game where scorecards fill up with Ks nightly.
However, Hill became just the 12th major-league pitcher 43 or older to have at least nine strikeouts in a game since 1901. It has happened 57 times in all.
The last time it occurred was when 45-year-old Randy Johnson struck out nine on May 11, 2009, while pitching for the San Francisco Giants against the Washington Nationals. Johnson had 12 such games at 43 or older.
Not surprisingly, Nolan Ryan’s 26 are the most. Of course, he was the ultimate freak of nature. Despite now being 76 years old, Ryan might still be able to get his fastball up to 90 mph.
The others to accomplish the feat, according to Baseball-Reference, are Cy Young, Warren Spahn, Gaylord Perry, Satchel Paige, Phil Niekro, Jamie Moyer, Sad Sam Jones, Charlie Hough and Roger Clemens.
Six of those pitchers are in the Hall of Fame and Clemens should be.
Moyer is in my personal Hall of Fame because he pitched his last game in 2012 at 49. That made him the last active major-league player older than me, and my running joke was the left-hander could never retire or else I would no longer be eternally young.
The best part of Hill’s outing Tuesday night was that he wasn’t impressed by racking up nine punchouts in less than six innings. Instead, he was clearly mad that he gave up five runs. Hill clearly hasn’t mellowed with age.
“You can look at strikeouts or whatever but, at the end of the day, it’s the score,” Hill said. “Coming out of that game at 4-1 deficit late in the game, that’s not putting us in a position to win. I think if you want to look at it as a good outing, fair outing or whatever, in my mind that’s not a championship mindset.
“So, you’ve got to hold yourself to a higher standard and you’ve got to be able to execute pitches throughout the entire game to be able to put yourself and give the team the opportunity to win.”
Hill has given the Pirates the opportunity to win games after being signed to a one-year, $8-million contract as a free agent in the offseason. Through 10 starts, he is 4-4 with a 4.27 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 52.2 innings.
Prior to Tuesday, Hill had been outstanding over his previous six starts with a 4-1 record and 2.23 ERA. Hill allowed only one hit in seven shutout innings last Wednesday when he beat the Tigers in Detroit.
The best part of all is Hill does it with a four-seam fastball that averages 87.5 mph in an era where 95 mph has become routine. and most pitchers better hit at least 91-92 mph consistently to even get a chance in the major leagues.
Watching Hill pitch is refreshing for an “old guy.”
It makes the aches and pains hurt a little less — and relieves the crankiness, too. Or at least a lot of it.