Alot of Jeremy Hellickson‘s allure is tied to his ability to “pitch” at such a young age. While most youngsters rely on pure stuff, Hellickson is cerebral in his approach on the mound. With maturity, command, and composure, you can see why some have thrown the Maddux word around when talking about him.
After failing to complete six innings in his first two starts, the Rays’ rookie has put together back-to-back seven inning performances. Tonight, he allowed three earned runs on six hits, two walks and a HBP. He surrendered one home run and struck out six. Overall, he threw 94 pitches with a solid majority (61) of them strikes.
If you break up Hellickson’s outing in two halves, you can see what they mean when they say he pitches instead of throws. In the first three innings, he faced 11 batters. Of those 11 batters, nine of them saw a first-pitch fastball. The other two got a changeup to start the at-bat. Hellickson’s fastball barely hits 92 MPH, but is effective because he can locate it well. That said, if he becomes to0 predictable, hitters will jump on it.
From the fourth through the seventh inning, Hellickson faced 18 batters. Knowing he would have to switch his style up as the Jays’ lineup flipped over, he mixed up his first-pitch sequence. Starting with the leadoff batter in the fourth, he threw seven first-pitch curveballs in his final four innings. Following close behind the curve, he threw six first-pitch changeups. The strikeouts took a back seat with this approach; however, he retired 10 batters in four pitches or less during this portion of the game.
A graduate from the James Shields School of Changeups, a whopping 35 of Hellickson’s 94 pitches classified as off-speed pitches. He threw 22 strikes with these pitches – including six whiffs. He also tossed 13 curveballs with four of them being the swing and miss variety.
When the Jays put the ball in play (Adam Lind and Jose Bautista), they did knock him around a bit(five extra-bast hits). Meanwhile, Hellickson was able to limit the damage without much help from his defense. Although he ends with a no-decision, it was a good night for the right-hander.
Hellickson left the game in line for the win, but the team could not uphold a 4-3 lead. After a walk to Jose Bautista to lead off the eighth inning, Joel Peralta induced what looked like a double-play ball on the 10th pitch of his battle with Adam Lind. Dan Johnson fielded it cleanly for the out at first, but hit Bautista with his throw to second.
You could blame either Johnson for the play (Dan for the throw or Elliot for a poor target as Jason Collette pointed out). That said, it was more bad luck than failed execution. It looked as if Peralta had Bautista picked off later in the inning, but Sean Rodriguez could not field his throw back to second. Nevertheless, Edwin Encarnacion would hit a double to deep right field to tie the game at 4-4.
Juan Cruz and Cesar Ramos were impressive in their work following Peralta. Cruz worked a scoreless ninth while Ramos is looking like he can be more than just a lefty specialist. The former Padre was perfect in his inning and a third with a strikeout. He was lifted with one out in the 11th for Adam Russell. The other former Padre allowed two hits on three pitches including John McDonald’s walkoff home run.; yes, that John McDonald who was only in the game because Sean Rodriguez took out Jayson Nix with a slide into second base.
Like most nights, Sam Fuld was the catalyst on offense. By the fifth inning, Fuld was 3-3 with three runs scored. He also threw in two steals for good measure. Batting behind Fuld, Johnny Damon had a multi-hit game of his own including the first two doubles of his Rays’ career. The top two hitters in the Rays’ lineup combined to go 5-10. The other seven batters? 2-27.
Considering how solid the bullpen has been thus far, a game like this was bound to happen at some point. That said, it was not like they got hammered. In fact, this marked the first time this season the Rays have lost a game in which they led after seven innings. As long as this is the exception and not the rule, we should be okay.