MIAMI — Jeremy Hellickson knew he was off from the start Friday night against the Marlins.
The right-hander can't remember a time when he bounced as many changeups, and he never walked as many batters (seven) as he did in just 4⅓ innings.
"I had no idea where the ball was going," Hellickson said. "It was not a good feeling out there."
But Hellickson battled, stranding 11 runners, and the Rays offense and bullpen backed him up in a 5-1 win in front of 29,628 at Miami's new ballpark. With their second victory in a row, the Rays (33-25) moved into sole possession of first place in the American League East, a half-game ahead of the Yankees.
"It wasn't an oil painting," manager Joe Maddon quipped, "but we did a lot of things well."
Maddon said the star of the game was former Marlins reliever Burke Badenhop, who relieved Hellickson in the fifth and promptly got John Buck to ground into an inning-ending double play.
"I really believe if Burke doesn't get that ground ball, I think that game could have flipped in a bad way," Maddon said. "I thought Burke was huge."
Badenhop threw 1⅔ scoreless innings to pick up the win, with Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney shutting the Marlins down the rest of the way.
"The bullpen was spectacular," Maddon said.
Hellickson got key outs as well, the biggest was retiring slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on a flyout to center with the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Hellickson missed there, too, throwing a fastball down the middle.
"I got pretty lucky," he said.
Hellickson had already lucked out in helping set up the Rays' go-ahead run in the top of the fourth, missing a sign and laying down a one-out sacrifice bunt to move catcher Jose Lobaton to third. Leadoff man Will Rhymes knocked in Lobaton with an infield single to give the Rays a 2-1 lead.
Hellickson smiled, saying he didn't know until he got back to the dugout he was supposed to swing away.
"It ended up working out," he said.
So did another one of Maddon's new lineups.
Lobaton racked up his second straight multihit game (two doubles) and centerfielder B.J. Upton continued to look good in the cleanup spot, collecting an RBI single. Rightfielder Matt Joyce doubled and scored, and added a home run, his 10th of the season. Even second baseman Ben Zobrist, who had been struggling, collected two hits. After going 12 consecutive games without racking up 10 hits in a game, the Rays have done so in back-to-back games.
"There's a lot of ways to write the lineup, there's lot of positions for guys to play," Joyce said. "We're just coming every day to expect the unexpected, really."
The Rays defense was strong, other than Lobaton helping the Rays tie the major-league record with their fifth catcher's interference call of the season.
"In spite of some of the things we did not do well tonight, we did a lot of things pretty well also," Maddon said.