It looked a lot like last month.
Hellickson picked up where he left off in May, pitching neatly into the eighth inning to lead the Rays to a 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.
“I liked his fastball today,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “To me, from the side, he didn’t have his typical great changeup so I liked the fastball usage.
“That’s the thing with a guy like him. When they have a good other pitch, they always want to go there often and that’s fine, but if you just conceal that a little bit more, when you have to go to it it’s an even better pitch. So that’s why I like when he throws his fastball.”
Hellickson (7-3) allowed one run and three hits over 7 1-3 innings, improving to 6-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his last seven starts. The 6-foot-1 right-hander collected five wins and gave up just six earned runs in 40 1-3 innings in May, earning the AL pitcher of the month award.
Hellickson struggled with his changeup early on, bouncing a handful in the dirt, but eventually settled down. He retired 16 of his last 17 batters.
“I felt great,” he said. “I felt like I had command of my changeup. I bounced about five in a row there in the first inning. It came around the last few innings and we made a ton of great plays today.”
Joel Peralta(notes) replaced Hellickson in the eighth and yielded a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Miguel Olivo(notes), cutting Tampa Bay’s lead to 3-2. But Peralta got Ichiro Suzuki(notes) to fly out to end the inning and Kyle Farnsworth(notes) finished for his 11th save in 12 chances.
“I threw a lot of fastballs early,” Hellickson said. “It’s easy to throw strikes when you are up 3-0 after the second inning.”
With two outs and runners on first and second, Fister allowed a flare to center by Johnny Damon(notes) that drove in a run. Damon managed to take an extra base when both middle infielders, Adam Kennedy(notes) and Brendan Ryan(notes), chased the looping fly ball, leaving no one to cover second.
“We used the bloop hit to spark rallies and Zobrist had a great swing on a pitch that was almost impossible to hit,” Damon said.
“Sometimes you have to be lucky and hopefully that means we can get going on a streak here soon.”
Seattle had a chance to score in the fourth but Justin Smoak(notes) was called out by plate umpire Darryl Cousins when he tried to come home on Kennedy’s fly ball to right. Smoak appeared to get in just ahead of the tag after Matt Joyce(notes) made a strong throw to the plate.
Smoak’s leadoff double in the fourth was the Mariners’ first legitimate hit off Hellickson, who struck out four and walked one. Carlos Peguero(notes) earned a single in the second on a fly ball to left that Sam Fuld(notes) lost the ball in the sun and dropped in off his hip.
“We were never able to get anything going against this kid,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of Hellickson. “He had a good fastball. He pitched, he located the ball and threw a good ballgame.”
Peguero added a double in the eighth and scored on Olivo’s sixth homer of the season.
NOTES: Rays 3B Evan Longoria(notes) left in the fourth inning with tightness in his left side he noticed while making throws to first base. He is day to day. Maddon said the move was precautionary. … Tampa Bay 1B Casey Kotchman(notes) returned to the lineup for the first time since Sunday, when he left with an ankle injury. He went 0 for 4. … Maddon said Andy Sonnanstine(notes) would return to the bullpen after allowing seven runs in five innings Friday night. Alex Cobb(notes) will replace Sonnanstine in the starting rotation. … Olivo has three career pinch-hit homers. … Seattle’s David Pauley(notes) got six outs to extend his scoreless streak to 18 innings.