Game 97: Hellickson Sharp, Conrad Homers as Rays Take Opener from O’s

By Robbie Knopf

The end was nerve-racking, but the Rays came through with a much-needed win in the opener of their series with the Orioles.

Jeremy Hellickson got the start with the Rays having lost his last five outings. Hellickson did everything he could to make sure that would not be the case this time around. Hellickson began the game with 3 shutout innings allowing just 1 hit, finally letting up a run in the 4th when Adam Jones drilled a long solo home run. Thankfully, one run was not enough to put the Rays away. The Rays came back with a home run of their own in the top of the 5th. Wei-Yin Chen started for the Orioles and allowed just a walk and a lone hit through the first four innings, but he walked Sam Fuld with 1 out in the 5th and 2 batters later he hanged a breaking ball to Brooks Conrad, and Conrad didn’t miss it, drilling a no-doubt 2-run home run to give the Rays a 2-1 lead. Jeff Keppinger made it a 3-1 game with a bloop RBI single in the 5th.

Hellickson allowed just a Nick Markakis double before getting lifted after recording the first out of the 7th. Hellickson went 6.1 innings allowing just 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. 61 of his 96 pitches were strikes. Hellickson’s command was completely on as he kept hitters off-balance all night, making only two mistakes all game on the Jones homer and the Markakis double as he got all his pitches working. Chen allowed 3 runs in 6.2 innings, striking out 5 while walking 3. But on this night, Hellickson was better.

Jake McGee finished the 7th for the Rays by striking out both batters he faced before Joel Peralta struck out 2 in a perfect 8th. Up next was Fernando Rodney to close the game out. But while Rodney has been just about automatic for the Rays this season, Tuesday night was downright scary. The inning began with a Nick Markakis line drive that deflected off Rodney’s glove before Rodney was able to throw Markakis out at first. But the line drive appeared to disarm Rodney a bit. He walked the next two batters and suddenly the Orioles had the winning run at the plate. Then Fernando Rodney fell behind 3-0 on Adam Jones and every Rays fan was ready to throw away the 2012 season. But Rodney was not going to let everything slip away. Rodney threw three straight changeups, getting Jones to swing at 3-1 and 3-2 offerings to strike him out. Rodney then struck out Matt Wieters to end it as the Rays won 3-1.

Hellickson (5-6) finally got a win for the first time since May 16th, while Chen (8-6) took the loss and Rodney saved his 28th game. Just about lost in this game was that Sam Fuld returned to the big leagues for his 2012 debut and had a vintage Sam Fuld night, going 1 for 3 with a walk, a bunt single and a stolen base. Great to have him come back like he never missed a beat, and the Rays made sure that he was welcomed back in style.