Jeremy Hellickson gave up a grand slam (after the Nationals failed to turn what would have been an inning-ending double play) in the first inning of his previous outing before last night’s start, but the veteran right-hander settled in after that, tossing four scoreless before a single and a walk in the sixth ended his outing against the New York Mets.
“Just kept competing,” Hellickson said after the loss, when asked about bouncing back from the rough start in the nation’s capital.
“Just kept trying to make pitches. I know four is a lot to come back from against [New York Mets’ starter Noah Syndergaard], so just tried to keep it at that and let our guys try to get back in it.”
That loss left Hellickson winless in five starts, over which the right-hander was (0-2) with an 8.06 ERA, nine walks, 23 Ks, and a .323/.380/.596 line against in 22 1⁄3 IP over that stretch.
He got off to a rocky start on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball too, walking the first three Cubs’ batters he faced in the series finale with Chicago, and, after a run scored on a bases-loaded RBI groundout, Hellickson hit a batter to load them back up before a 5-6-3 DP ended a 22-pitch top of the first with the score 1-0 Cubbies.
Back-to-back hits (a single and double) and a one-out sac fly in the second gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead, and it was 3-0 after Anthony Rizzo hit a 2-2 fastball out to left in the third.
That was it for Hellickson, who threw 64 pitches in three innings before he was done for the night in what ended up a 6-5 loss.
Jeremy Hellickson’s Line: (L, 2-3), 3.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 64 P, 30 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
So what’s going on with the veteran starter, who is now winless in his last six with the Nats 1-5 in his outings.
“I don’t know,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said after last night’s game, “... but he’s a guy that throws strikes and when he falls behind and falls behind that’s an indication to me that he’s not right.”
“It’s tough,” the manager continued. “And I’ve known Helly for a long time, and he’ll battle through some stuff, but when he’s missing like that, that’s tough. And I don’t know if it’s going to get any better throughout the game, but we couldn’t afford to let the game get out of hand. I felt pretty about just staying right there.”
Hellickson told reporters that it’s a mechanical issue that’s leading to his struggles.
“Fastball command wasn’t too good,” Hellickson said, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr. “Just kind of fighting myself right now. Mechanics are a little off. Just missing. Just got to get back to who I am, getting ahead and attacking, being way more efficient than I am right now.”
Asked if there was a common thread in Hellickson’s start he could point to that would help explain the starter’s struggles, Martinez said, “No.”
“You know his last start we booted a double play and he threw a bad changeup to [Wilson] Ramos, but we could have got out of that inning and he gives up no runs, so you know just today was — I’ve seen him pitch a lot, and when he’s ball one, ball two, walking guys, ball one, ball two, I don’t see him like that very often.”
If Hellickson keeps struggling like he has, how long do the Nationals stick with him in the rotation?