Tampa Bay Rays' Jeremy Hellickson goes deep enough to earn first win in a month

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jeremy Hellickson wanted to do more.

With the Rays bullpen working 6⅓ innings in relief of struggling rookie Matt Moore on Saturday, Hellickson wanted to stay in Sunday's game as long as he could.

But 5⅔ shutout innings were enough. Enough to lead the Rays to a win they had to have, and enough to get Hellickson his first victory since Aug. 20, a span of six starts.

"That was the goal," Hellickson said. "I would like to have gone a little deeper because the bullpen had a long day (Saturday)."

The win improved Hellickson to 9-10 and lowered his ERA to 3.20, seventh best in the American League. He has had trouble getting deep into games this season, failing to complete six innings in 12 of his 29 starts, including nine of his past 18. He also hasn't pitched with much luck, allowing three runs or fewer 25 times (third most in the AL) and having only nine wins to show for it.

Sunday's performance was a bit atypical in that he got nine of his 17 outs on ground balls since he is considered a fly-ball pitcher. "They just hit it on the ground," he said. "I've been getting more ground balls this year. I'm keeping the ball down."

GLOVE LOVE: There were a series of dazzling defensive plays Sunday. LHP J.P. Howell had one, 1B Carlos Peña had one, 3B Evan Longoria had a couple.

"That was beautiful," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's more what we're supposed to look like. That's what we looked like over the past couple of years, a combination of the great pitching and part of the great pitching is you make plays like that. That was outstanding. It was fun to watch and definitely something in our recent past. We've got to do more like that."

SAME-SAME: Though today's day off provides a welcome break, Maddon said he wished they were playing just to keep their emotional roll going. When they do reconvene in Boston on Tuesday, Maddon plans to keep the same relaxed atmosphere with pregame work optional.

"I would hope nothing changes," he said. "My God, it's not going to change for me, I'm telling you that. Seriously, I don't want anything to change."

PITCHING IN: Moore, despite working four or fewer innings in three straight starts, will stay in the rotation and is lined up to pitch Friday in Chicago. Rookie RHP Chris Archer was an option to replace him. After starting LHP David Price and RHP Alex Cobb in Boston, the Rays are set to throw RHP James Shields, Moore, Hellickson and Price at the White Sox.

CATCHING ON: Though rookie Stephen Vogt was 0-for-2 to extend his team-record career-starting hitless streak to 21 at-bats, he did accomplish something, making his first big-league start behind the plate. "I thought he caught really well," Maddon said, and also praised the quality of his at-bats. ... Veteran Jose Molina replaced Vogt in the seventh, the career-high 16th consecutive game he appeared in.

MISCELLANY: RHP Fernando Rodney logged his 44th save, one shy of Rafael Soriano's 2010 team record. … The Rays had one or no hits through four innings for the 31st time this season. … OF Matt Joyce said he was honored to have his first bobblehead, though he noted "he had a better tan than I do." … The Rays finished 14-4 vs. the Blue Jays.

Tampa Bay Rays' Jeremy Hellickson goes deep enough to earn first win in a month 09/23/12 [Last modified: Sunday, September 23, 2012 9:56pm]

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