Rich Hill threw seven shutout innings against Tampa Bay on Saturday in one of the shortest games of the year for the Boston Red Sox. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Rich Hill reminded us Saturday that baseball can be an up-tempo sport.

On a sun-splashed late-summer afternoon at Fenway Park, the 42-year-old lefty dazzled over seven scoreless innings. It was pitching — not throwing — at its finest, with Hill throwing 95 pitches and never hitting 92 mph.

He may not throw hard, but he throws fast. The game was over in two hours and 24 minutes — the fourth-fastest game of the season for the Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1.

Catcher Kevin Plawecki said it was the fastest-paced game he had ever caught. And he’s been a pro for 11 years.

Hill was the oldest pitcher to strike out 11 in a game since Randy Johnson struck out 13 Marlins at the age of 44 in 2008, but his performance left us thinking about the future, not the past.

There’s been a lot of talk about an MLB pitch clock being implemented as soon as next year. It’s been a success in the minors, with some reports saying it has taken about 20 minutes off the average time of game. Hill’s performance had us thinking how great the game could be with a clock.


That’s the last thing Hill wants to see. He’s one of the fastest pitchers in the game to begin with, but made a concerted effort to speed things up Saturday. His goal was to show baseball that the game doesn’t need a clock to pick up the pace. It just needs players willing to work quicker.

“Nobody has really said, ‘Hey we need to speed up the game,’” Hill said on Sunday. “Nobody has come in and said that to us. They just said, ‘Hey we want to implement a pitch clock because the game was too slow.”

The biggest objection Hill has to a clock is that he’d hate to see a key moment in competition dictated by an umpire calling a ball on a slow pitcher or a strike on a batter stepping out of the box. He understands the game is in danger of losing a generation of fans that want faster-paced action. He also feels pitchers who work quickly shouldn’t suddenly be slapped with a clock.

“If you move really efficiently and the game is going quickly, does that not buy you some credit?” Hill asked. “Is there no incentive to move quickly later in the game or at certain points in the game where you can step off and say, ‘Hey, I need a little bit more time because I’ve been pretty efficient with my time up to this point.’”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was thrilled with Hill’s performance, and his pace. He said the reports from minor-league games played with a pitch clock have been good, but he understands the game could be played at a quicker pace without it. Cora was an infielder, and knows how much more energy he had playing behind a pitcher who wasn’t wasting much time between pitches.

Nick Pivetta was on the mound Sunday in a game that was back to its usual pace. The Sox were blown out 12-4 in a game that lasted 3 hours and 14 minutes.

It was a stark contrast from the prior day. We had plenty of time between pitches to think about the difference in pace.

Here’s hoping there is a pitch clock in 2023. Or a way for Hill to start all 162 games for Boston.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN.

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