The rookie right-hander tries to get back into the win column Monday night when the host Rays try to record their fifth straight victory as they open a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds - a team they’ve never defeated.
Tampa Bay (44-34) is averaging 6.1 runs during an 8-1 run, and improved to a season-best 10 games above .500 after tying a season high with 19 hits in Sunday’s 14-10 victory at Houston.
The Rays’ only defeat in the last nine contests was a 5-1 loss at Milwaukee on Tuesday, when Hellickson (7-6, 3.09 ERA) threw six innings of two-run ball but they backed him with a single run.
It was the first time in his last three outings - all losses - that Tampa Bay scored. Hellickson had one of the top run-support averages in the majors through his first 11 starts at 7.53.
The Rays are averaging 3.2 runs at Tropicana Field compared to 5.2 on the road, but Hellickson, who last won June 4, has to feel good about how B.J. Upton(notes) and Evan Longoria(notes) are hitting as the club opens a six-game homestand.
The pair went 13 for 26 with six homers and 17 RBIs in a three-game sweep of the Astros over the weekend.
“The home runs are pretty, but it’s the other kind of at-bats that get us going,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon, whose team is 9-3 in interleague play.
The Reds have won all six of their previous games against the Rays, but those all occurred prior to 2008, when the Tampa Bay franchise became a perennial contender. Cincinnati swept three games at Tropicana Field in 2003.
The Reds (40-39), though, have dropped five of six in AL parks after losing two of three to Baltimore this past weekend.
Monday’s scheduled starter Mike Leake(notes) (6-4, 4.19) would like that. The Reds have scored four total runs in his last two starts - both losses. Cincinnati scored 18 times while he won his previous two outings.
“You’ve just got to keep battling, and eventually they’ll score some runs for you,” Leake said after yielding four runs in six innings of Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the New York Yankees.
Leake, 3-2 with a 2.85 ERA in six starts since a brief demotion to Triple-A Louisville last month, has never faced the Rays.
Jonny Gomes(notes) will likely be the Reds’ designated hitter as he plays at Tropicana Field for the first time since leaving the Rays via free agency. He hit .235 with 66 homers and 184 RBIs for Tampa Bay from 2003-08.