In his 2018 debut for the Washington Nationals, Jeremy Hellickson held the New York Mets to seven runs on two hits in 4 2⁄3 innings, walking one and striking out three in what ended up an 8-6 win last Monday in Citi Field.
Asked what he expected from his starter before the outing, Davey Martinez, who was the bench coach in Tampa Bay while Hellickson was with the Rays, told reporters the 31-year-old, nine-year veteran was a smart strike thrower who’d hopefully give them six or seven innings.
“He can elevate his fastball, he throws cutters, he keeps hitters off-balance throughout the game. He’s really good at that,” Martinez said.
Hellickson threw 88 pitches total in his four-plus innings against the Mets, and the Nationals rallied from a 6-1 deficit with a six-run eighth that lifted them to a win.
Martinez said he took Hellickson out when he did because of his pitch count in what was his first start of the season after he signed a minor league deal late in Spring Training.
“We wanted to keep him about 85 pitches, which was perfect,” the first-year manager said.
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies he liked what he saw in Hellickson’s debut and said he thought there was more there.
“He’s a veteran pitcher, he’s been through the wars before,” Rizzo said.
“He’s only  years old. We think he’s going to get better. His velocity touched 91 in that game, so we think that he’s going to get opportunities to start for us.”
”I haven’t really gotten to 90-plus yet, so I mean 85 was the number,” Hellickson said after the outing in New York, “... but obviously I would like to go a little deeper, just that’s a good lineup. They foul off good pitches and make you work, and I think the good thing was I was just getting ahead with everything.”
In the series finale in LA on Sunday, Hellickson made his second start for the Nats, stranding two in a 25-pitch first, and retiring seven straight after a two-out walk in the Dodgers’ half of the opening inning.
He was up to ten-straight after retiring the Dodgers in order in a 12-pitch fourth, and 13 in a row after an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth.
Chris Taylor broke Hellickson’s string of retired batters at 14-straight with a one-out double to right in the bottom of the sixth, and Corey Seager took a walk in the next at bat, putting the Nationals’ starter in a jam for the first time since two batters reached in the first inning.
Yasmani Grandal ended Hellickson’s night with a two-run grounder by first that brought in LA’s first two runs and made it a 3-2 game. The Dodgers tied it up on a double to center by Cody Belllinger off Sammy Solis, and a sac fly in the seventh with Trevor Gott made it 4-3.
Jeremy Hellickson’s Line: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 93 P, 57 S, 8/1 GO/FO.
“He pitched great,” Martinez said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. “And even when it seemed like it fell apart, there were no hard-hit balls.”
“It’s no secret that we’re a group of guys that hits off the fastball,” Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts told reporters when asked about Hellickson’s early success against his team.
“This guy was probably 60-70% secondary, soft.
“His breaking ball, his change kept us off balance, mixed in the fastball, so he did a good job pitching.”