Hill battled early, throwing 40 pitches in a three-run first inning and another 22 in a two-run second. But in a season in which he has yet to pitch into the sixth inning in eight starts, the Dodgers needed him to give them more length.
"I thought the stuff was good," Roberts said. "But just to find a way to be more efficient. Even when his stuff is good, it seems like he's working harder than he needs to. Whether it be a foul ball or just missing, it just seems like counts are running a little bit too deep. And even when he's going low, he can't get through five innings at this point in time. He's a guy that we're counting on to give us a chance to go deep and give us some length."
Hill said he felt fine mechanically and emotionally, but his pitches weren't working the way he wanted them to. He eventually got in a groove in the third and fourth innings, when he retired six out of seven batters, but he couldn't record an out in the fifth and allowed a walk and a single to open the frame, both of which ultimately scored.
"When you stink, you stink," Hill said. "I'm not making any excuses for that. I've thrown plenty of pitches where I've missed my spot and guys have popped it up. I've thrown plenty of pitches where I've hit my spot and guys have hit it 450 feet. At the end of the day, it's just continuing to put the work in and the time in and the effort in."
Hill, who is in line to start next Wednesday, will have an extra day of rest with right-hander Kenta Maeda getting a spot start on Sunday. Roberts has not given much thought to sending Hill to the bullpen, but at some point, the team wants to see him give it more length.
The Dodgers have seen the pitcher he can be, as his 2.12 ERA last season trailed only his teammate Clayton Kershaw among pitchers with at least 100 innings. It's why they acquired him at the non-waiver Trade Deadline and inked him to a three-year, $48 million deal this past offseason.
"It's necessary for us to win the championship, he has to be good in the rotation," Roberts said. "But obviously he knows he's got to get better. And he's trying."
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland and covered the Dodgers on Thursday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.