Like the worm after the storm, Jeremy Hellickson emerged from the Rays bullpen tonight to deliver an inspiring performance from a staff that has been doling out more questions than answers of late. Hellickson entered the game in the third inning after a two-hour and eleven-minute rain delay chased both Wade Davis and A.J. Burnett from the game. It will be noted, perhaps in jest, that Davis was pulled while throwing a no-hitter, and while he threw well, it was Hellickson that deservedly got the win.
Hellickson's final line: 3.1 IP, 3H, 2ER, 5K, is marred a bit by the earned runs, the only two the Yankees scored, but represented something greater than the sum of its parts. This was Hellboy's strongest outing since being converted to the bullpen. He looked strong against the hard-hitting Yanks, generating nine swinging strikes in 54 pitches (16.67%). Working mostly fast/change, Hellickson seemed to blow his fastball by several Yankees despite averaging only ~91MPH. He allowed a solo home run to Lance Berkman for his first run, Berkman's first home run as a Yankee, in the fifth inning.
I watched the game on ESPN tonight, and while I am a Rick Sutcliffe hater, I agreed with him when he blamed Dioner Navarro for the Yankees run in the sixth. After Derek Jeter singled with one out, Mark Teixeira was at bat and Hellickson got charged with a wild pitch that Navarro let squirt down the third-base line. Jeter moved to second and was held there when Teixeira grounded out to Hellickson on a ball that could have started a double play if Jeter were on first. Jeter then scored on Alex Rodriguez's jam-shot RBI single to left. It wasn't a lack of skill by Navarro, on paper he's the best defensive catcher on the squad, but rather a lapse in effort that accounted for the wild pitch. You'd think if a guy was trying to help the team win the division, and more importantly for him, make the postseason roster, he'd put out a bit more effort.
Offensively the Rays were aided by solo home runs by Dan Johnson, Carl Crawford, and Evan Longoria. Johnson's homer led off the sixth inning and Crawford and Longoria hit back-to-back shots with two outs in the seventh. I'm pleased the Rays put up seven runs on the Yanks, but I'm not happy about having first and third with no outs in the sixth inning and coming up with no runs. Teixeira did make a nice play to gun down Joyce at the plate and then Navarro GIDP'd to end the inning. Navarro!
It's always better to nitpick a win than to lament a loss, and tonight's win brings the Rays back to 1.5 games behind the Yankees. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that David Price matches up against CC Sabathiia tomorrow. Forecast says there's a 0% chance of rain tomorrow, so hopefully the game won't last until Friday.
- Let's not forget, Hellickson plunked Teixeira in the leg with a slider in the fourth. While it wasn't a fastball, it was nice to see a Yankee hitter get awarded first base for actually getting hit for once.