Haren and the Angels go for a two-game series sweep Wednesday in St. Petersburg, where Hellickson tries to help the defending AL East champions break into the win column and end the worst start in franchise history.
Acquired from Arizona in a five-player deal last July, Haren (0-0, 1.29 ERA) received more than three runs of support just once and one or fewer seven times in 14 starts for the Angels in 2010.
Opening his first full season with the club Friday, the veteran right-hander went seven solid innings, yielding six hits and one run, but left without a decision in a 2-1 loss at Kansas City. Haren, whose wild pitch led to the Royals’ only run against him, got his only support on a first-inning solo homer by Howie Kendrick(notes).
“I’m not really thinking about (last season’s struggles),” Haren told the Angels’ official website. “I’m staying in the present day. … We just couldn’t push across the next run (after Kendrick’s homer).”
Haren, 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in two starts against the Rays last season following the trade, could get a nice cushion Wednesday the way the Angels are now hitting.
Los Angeles (2-3), which snapped a three-game skid with Tuesday’s 5-3 victory, is batting .315 (39 for 124) and averaging 6.0 runs in its last three contests.
The Rays (0-4), meanwhile, have been getting very little production from newcomers Johnny Damon(notes) and Manny Ramirez(notes). The onetime Boston Red Sox stars are a combined 2 for 27 with eight strikeouts.
For the season, Tampa Bay is batting .138 and has scored six total runs.
“Honestly, I’m not displeased,” manager Joe Maddon said. “0-4 is no good. I don’t like it. But I do like that we’re playing the game pretty well right now. We’re just not hitting. That happens.”
Before opening a seven-game trip Thursday against the Chicago White Sox, the Rays will give the ball to Hellickson, who starts his first full season with the big-league club. The 23-year-old right-hander has been in the club’s system since 2004, but didn’t make his major league debut until Aug. 2.
It was worth the wait. Hellickson became the first Rays pitcher to win his first three big-league starts, and the first major leaguer since 1920 to go at least six innings and surrender three or fewer hits in each of his first three.
“I think we just had too much talent up here the last few years. Guys have had to stay in Triple-A a little longer than maybe we should have,” Hellickson, who finished 4-0 with a 3.47 ERA in 10 appearances, told the Rays’ official website. “You definitely get a lot of time to prepare and get ready for this level. And it did give me a lot of confidence.”
Hellickson pitched two innings of relief against the Angels in a 6-3 home loss Sept. 19, allowing a solo home run by Abreu but no other baserunners.
The Angels are seeking their first sweep of any length at Tampa Bay since a three-game series Sept. 3-5, 2002.