Game 18: Hellickson Outduels Wilson as Rays Win Nail-Biter vs. Angels

By Robbie Knopf

There’s a reason that the Rays rotation has gotten the reputation that it currently has. When any of the five pitchers in the Rays’ rotation is on, it is awfully hard for the other team to win the game. After David Price dominated the Angels on Tuesday night, Jeremy Hellickson wasn’t quite on the same level on Wednesday but gave the Rays another stellar outing.

Hellickson was in trouble all night. He allowed a double to Bobby Abreu to begin the game but then got a strikeout of Howie Kendrick and a couple of groundouts to escape trouble. After a couple of singles and a questionable catcher’s interference call against catcher Chris Gimenez, Hellickson faced a bases-loaded jam in the 2nd but again got a strikeout and a groundout. Hellickson made his one mistake in the game in the 5th, a solo homer to Vernon Wells on a flat 3-2 fastball, but thanks to double plays in the 3rd, 4th, and 6th, the first two of the “strike ’em out, throw ’em out” variety, that was all Hellickson allowed. Hellickson tossed 6 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. He had great control, tossing 62 of 100 pitches for strikes but more importantly forcing 8 groundouts compared to just 1 flyout. Hellickson got into trouble at times, but he got 4 strikeouts with runners on base and the 3 double plays, and he exited in line for the win having given the Rays exactly the type of outing they need to win games.

The Rays gave Hellickson a lead in the 3rd as Ben Zobrist broke an 0 for 16 slide with a no-doubt home run into the left field seats off of C.J. Wilson to give the Rays a 1-0 lead, and later in the inning, after Carlos Pena singled and stole 2nd base, Jeff Keppinger blooped a 2-out double down the right field line to give the Rays a 2-0 lead. Following the Wells home run, Hellickson handed over a 2-1 lead to the Rays’ bullpen, which has been shaky at best for most of 2012 although they have seemed to come on lately, tossing shutout ball the last 7.1 innings they’ve pitched. Tonight, they were on. Wade Davis worked around a double to pitch a scoreless 7th, and Joel Peralta worked around an Albert Pujols walk in the 8th. The Rays tacked on a big insurance run in the 8th as Brandon Allen drew a bases-loaded walk off of Jason Isringhausen in his first plate appearance as a Ray, Isringhausen’s 4th walk of the inning, 3rd unintentional. That run proved to be the difference as Fernando Rodney allowed a single to Torii Hunter to begin the 9th before getting 2 groundouts and another groundball to Ben Zobrist, but Zobrist booted it, allowing Hunter to score, before Rodney retired pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo to end the game as the Rays won 3-2.

Hellickson (3-0) earned the win in the game, lowering his ERA on the season to 2.84. Hellickson entered this start with 10 walks compared to 9 strikeouts, but he really righted the ship tonight both on the surface and in his peripheral stats. Wilson (2-2) deserves a mention for his effort as he tossed 7 innings allowing just the two 3rd inning runs on 6 hits, striking out 11 while walking 2. But it was not enough for him as Hellickson and the bullpen were able to escape jams and keep the Angels’ bats shaking their heads. The Rays go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon at the Trop with Matt Moore squaring off against the Angels’ Jerome Williams. All the other four Rays starters are all coming off great outings. Matt Moore looks to make it all five and give the Rays a 5-1 homestand.