Jeremy Hellickson bounced back from a flu-influenced four inning outing in which he gave up nine hits and nine runs (eight earned) in what ended up a 14-12 win over Miami, with five scoreless on the road in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. Hellickson gave up just two hits in a 5-1 win for the Washington Nationals over the Pirates.
A bases-loaded opportunity in the top of the sixth led to an abbreviated start against the Bucs for the 32-year-old righty, but Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez liked what he saw.
“He kept the ball down when he needed to,” Martinez said. “His curveball was really sharp, his changeup was really good, but he attacked the strike zone, he got ahead, and he used his fastball, so that was nice.”
“I felt good,” Hellickson told reporters.
“I would have liked to have gone a little deeper. But we just needed a win. It was just good to feel good again. The last five days have been pretty rough. I don’t really remember much. It was good to get out there and get a win.”
Before today’s start, Martinez said he was expecting more of the same from Hellickson.
“I’m looking for him to go out there and do the same thing he did, give us six or seven good innings if possible, but I know he throws strikes, he works ahead of hitters, so hopefully he does it again today.”
Hellickson got the ball in this afternoon’s “first-half” finale in Citi Field, and gave up a run in the bottom of the second, an inning after the Nationals had take a 1-0 lead, but he held the Mets there through five on an efficient 61 pitches.
Martinez let Hellickson hit for himself in the top of the sixth, and sent him back out for the bottom of the inning, and for just the second time this season the veteran right-hander got through the sixth, on 73 pitches.
Jeremy Hellickson’s Line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 73 P, 51 S, 5/1 GO/FO.
After a five-run seventh, Martinez went to the bullpen and the Nationals held on and took the finale from the Mets, 6-1, to get to .500 at the All-Star Break and earn a split of the four-game series in Citi Field.
“He’s been really good, honestly,” Martinez said when asked to sum up Hellickson’s first half in D.C.
“Keeps us in the ballgame and on this club when you do that we’ve got a good chance to win. Offense is starting to come alive, so I’ve always said, we get good starting pitching we’re going to win some ballgames and he did that today.”
”It feels good,” Hellickson said when asked the same.
“Obviously, I know I’m not the pitcher I was the last two months of last year,” the veteran righty added, referring to his second-half struggles in 2017, which played a part in leaving him searching for a deal late into the offseason before he accepted a minor league offer from the Nationals.
“It was a matter of finding the team to take a chance on me that believed in me,” he said, “and I guess they believed in me, so it’s nice to come out and pitch well this first half.”
It was also important for both Hellickson on the Nationals to finish with a win that left them 48-48, 5.5 games out in third place in the NL East.
”It was important,” Hellickson said. “We need all the wins we can right now. It’s just nice to get to face the lineup a third time through today, help the bullpen out a little bit.
“But we scored a ton of runs there too, so that made it easier on everybody. Just a big win all around.”
He said it was good to know that he’s part of a team that will need him to perform in the second half, considering how the winter went.
”We’re going to need everybody,” Hellickson said. “That’s -- Philly and Atlanta aren’t going anywhere. We’re going to need everybody to step up and just play how we’re capable of playing.”