Tampa Bay Rays
Hellickson dominant as Rays blank A’s
ST. PETERSBURG -
While Matt Joyce and Jeremy Hellickson earned some redemption, Desmond Jennings made some history as the Rays edged Oakland 1-0 on Saturday night.
Hellickson, who began the 2012 season 4-0, won for the first time in four starts to even his record at 1-1, yielding three singles in seven innings against a club that had been averaging six runs per game. He walked only one and struck out six while throwing 100 pitches before Joel Peralta retired the side in order in the eighth.
Fernando Rodney came on for his second save, but not before Coco Crisp reached base with one out when second baseman Ryan Roberts dropped his popup — Tampa Bay’s first error at Tropicana Field this season. Former Rays catcher John Jaso struck out looking on a 98-mph fastball and Rodney ended the game by retiring Seth Smith on a roller to second, with Crisp taking off on the pitch.
“The biggest thing was throwing strikes and getting ahead of guys,” said Hellickson, who lowered his ERA from 4.91 to 3.55. “That first win feels really good. Joyce got us our one run and I’m glad I made that stand.”
Tampa Bay improved to 7-10 with its second consecutive win following a 2-7 road trip that tumbled the Rays into the American League East basement. Oakland, which had been 6-0 on the road before arriving at the Trop on Friday, fell to 12-6 and never advanced a runner past first base.
“We pitched really well and we played great defense,’’ Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Jeremy was outstanding. He pitched aggressively, threw his fastball, used his change-up at the right time and used his curve.”
An announced crowd of 25,611 saw Hellickson win a taut pitcher’s duel against Jarrod Parker (0-3), who allowed six hits in 61/3 innings, striking out five.
Parker’s only mistake came in the second inning, when Joyce crushed a 3-2 fastball that found too much of the plate. Joyce began the night with only two extra-base hits in 46 at-bats, but his drive into the right-field seats marked his second game-winning home run of the season.
“We’re going to take a win any way we can get it,’’ Joyce said. “For our pitching staff to hold them to nothing was outstanding. At 3-2, I was looking for a fastball, just looking for something to hit hard.’’
Hellickson faced only 23 batters and mixed his pitches effectively, surrendering singles to Brandon Moss in the second inning, Eric Sogard in the third and Seth Smith in the fourth. Sogard was erased on the base paths when Jennings became the first Rays outfielder to register an unassisted double play.
When Jennings raced in and caught Crisp’s sinking pop, he noticed Sogard had already rounded second base, thinking the ball would land safely. Jennings then outraced Sogard back to first, becoming the first major-league center fielder to complete an unassisted double play by catching a fly and recording the putout at first base since Andy Van Slyke accomplished the feat for Pittsburgh in 1992.
“I just figured I’d go to first myself, I guess,” said Jennings, who also struck out three times. “I looked up and the runner was already near third. I was already heading in that direction (Rays dugout), so why not?’’
Derek Norris drew a leadoff walk in the fifth, but he was erased when perfectly positioned shortstop Yunel Escobar stabbed Josh Reddick’s liner just to the left of second base and fired to first for a double play.
Norris was Oakland’s final base runner until Crisp reached on Roberts’ miscue as the Rays became only the third AL team in the past 25 years to post four shutouts in its first 17 games of a season.
The Rays couldn’t muster much against Parker or Ryan Cook. Jose Molina posted two of Tampa Bay’s six hits, but Joyce’s homer proved enough on a night when Oakland’s high-scoring lineup was shut down by a trio of Rays pitchers.
The Rays received mixed news Saturday from their Triple-A affiliate in Durham, which played a doubleheader against Norfolk. Top prospect Wil Myers hit his first home run in the nightcap, but shortstop Hak-Ju Lee tore knee ligaments in the opener and is likely out for the season.
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