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Rookie Jeremy Hellickson is sharp again as Tampa Bay Rays beat Seattle Mariners 3-2

SEATTLE —The dominant performance from rookie Jeremy Hellickson really wasn't anything unexpected. The handful of sharp defensive plays looked familiar, albeit not recently. There was even the near daily dose of bad news, as Evan Longoria left midgame with tightness in his side.

What set Saturday apart for the Rays was the brief outburst — if you call two walks, two bloop hits and one actual clutch knock an outburst — that led to three second-inning runs. And, after an eighth-inning scare, the resulting smiles on their faces after a much-needed victory, 3-2 over the Mariners.

"That was huge for us," rightfielder Matt Joyce said. "We need some confidence, we need some momentum, we need to get something going. And this is a start."

The Rays had lost three straight, 10 of 14 and 13 of 19 and were a loss from giving back all they had gained and falling back to .500. Not that one win, and 30-28, is all that much different, but it was obvious in the clubhouse how much it mattered.

"That feels really good," Hellickson said.

"We're just happy to stop that losing streak," DH Johnny Damon said. "And hopefully we'll start a winning streak (today)."

Hellickson played the biggest part, working into the eighth while allowing only three hits and a walk.

"He's the reason why we won this game," Damon said. "We can look to any of our pitchers to get us going in the right direction, and Helly's done it a few times this year."

Hellickson has won a team-high seven times overall, with four coming after losses. The difference Saturday was he used his fastball as his primary weapon since his changeup wasn't as sharp as usual.

"I love the idea that he threw his fastball as often as he did," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's the thing with a guy like him. When they have the 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."

The Rays also got Hellickson to throw faster, instructing him to pick up the pace after what Maddon called a "painstakingly too slow" second inning.

"I thought I mixed it up pretty good," Hellickson said. "I threw a lot of fastballs early. I haven't done that lately. We made a lot of great plays out there, too. It's easy to go out there and throw strikes when we're up 3-0 after the second inning."

Must be, since it was the first lead the Rays held since Tuesday. The rally started quietly, with a walk by B.J. Upton, then a baserunning gaffe as he was thrown out trying to get to third on Sam Fuld's bloop single.

But Fuld moved up on the play, then after John Jaso walked and Reid Brignac struck out, Damon dropped another blooper into center and turned his into an RBI double. Ben Zobrist then came through with the big hit the Rays had been lacking, singling home two more. "Huge," Maddon said.

After hitting some rocket shots with nothing to show for them in the first two games here, the Rays found better results in their short game and didn't apologize for it.

"Sometimes," Damon said, "you have to be lucky."

"Any way you can," Joyce said.

"Hey listen, man," Maddon said. "Anything right now to get the boat floating again."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Rays 3

Mariners 2

Rookie Jeremy Hellickson is sharp again as Tampa Bay Rays beat Seattle Mariners 3-2 06/04/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 4, 2011 10:30pm]
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