They could also use his help now.
The Rays (68-44) had lost a season-high five straight before beginning their series in Detroit on Monday night, but their 6-3 victory pulled the club within 1 1/2 games of AL East-leading New York.
Tampa Bay also swept a four-game home series with the Tigers (54-58) from July 26-29, part of Detroit’s dismal start to the second half. The Tigers’ 6-20 record since the All-Star break is the worst in the majors, dropping them nine games behind Chicago and Minnesota in the AL Central.
Detroit is batting .239 and averaging 3.2 runs in that stretch, but the Rays’ primary concern is with their banged-up rotation after shoulder problems forced both Davis and Jeff Niemann(notes) to the disabled list Monday.
Hellickson (1-0, 2.57 ERA) has a chance to ease those worries. The 23-year-old right-hander is regarded as one of baseball’s top pitching prospects, a reputation bolstered by his 12-3 record and 2.45 ERA in 21 starts for Triple-A Durham in 2010.
The right-hander posted similar results in his debut with Tampa Bay, holding the Twins to two runs and three hits in seven innings of a 4-2 win Aug. 2.
Hellickson was immediately sent back to the minors but didn’t make another start for Durham because the injuries necessitated his return. He said he’s not nearly as nervous as he was last week.
“I really don’t feel like that again,” Hellickson told the Rays’ official website. “Getting that one under my belt probably helped me a lot.”
Tampa Bay hopes Hellickson can pitch deep into the game after its bullpen was forced to work 10 2-3 innings in the last three days. David Price(notes) set a franchise single-season record with his 15th win Monday despite only completing five innings.
“Our bullpen was short … and we knew it was going to be tough for us to piece together four innings,” manager Joe Maddon said. “If we didn’t get five outs from Chad, we would have never done it.”
The Rays didn’t have a hit off Scherzer through five innings in that game, but former Tiger Matt Joyce(notes) broke up his bid with a grand slam following two walks and a catcher’s interference in the sixth inning of Detroit’s 5-0 loss.
“I wanted to keep challenging. I didn’t want to walk him in that situation,” Scherzer said. “I grooved it, and he hit it.”
That was a rare misstep in an impressive recent stretch for Scherzer, who has averaged more than a strikeout per inning while going 5-2 with a 2.23 ERA in his last 10 starts.
Joyce homered again Monday after going hitless with 10 strikeouts in his previous 18 at-bats. He has eight RBIs in five games this year against Detroit, which traded him to the Rays on Dec. 11, 2008.