Rays shake off Hellickson walks, squeeze Fish

Rays shake off Hellickson walks, squeeze Fish

Rays shake off Hellickson walks, squeeze Fish
MIAMI -- On paper, it defied logic. Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson walked seven batters and gave up five hits in 4 1/3 innings, and still, he somehow managed to surrender just one run.

That mystifying stat summed up the Rays' odd 5-1 victory over the Marlins on Friday night at Marlins Park.

The Rays-Marlins contest was the first of six Interleague games they will play over the next 10 days. In addition to getting a leg up on their Sunshine State rivals, the Rays moved back into first place in the American League East, thanks to the Phillies' 9-6 win over the Orioles.

"Helly had really good stuff, but the command just wasn't there on any of his pitches," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Fastball, 92, 93 [mph], some really good changeups, but the location was not there. Good velocity on the hook, but the overall location was not there."

Needless to say, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was more than exasperated with his club, which left 13 runners on base.

"The kid who started the game for them, he can't even finish [the fifth inning]," Guillen said. "He was walking people. We have people all over the bases. We couldn't take advantage. If we want to compete, we've got to do better in that department."

Those walks led to two bases-loaded situations in which the Marlins failed to cash in.

In the third, the Marlins had runners on second and third with no outs when Hellickson walked Giancarlo Stanton, rather than risk having the Marlins' imposing slugger empty the bases with one swing.

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Greg Dobbs delivered a sacrifice fly that scored a run, but Hellickson escaped further damage.

When the Marlins again loaded the bases in the fourth, Stanton came to bat with two outs. This time Hellickson had no choice but to pitch to him.

Stanton got ahead in the count 2-0 before skying a fly ball to center field for the third out.

"That was a fastball pretty much down the middle," Hellickson said. "I got pretty lucky. Early on I was just thinking about not walking him. It's tough to do that with a guy like him up to bat."

Despite the win, it was obvious Hellickson was frustrated with his performance.

"Leaving that many runners on base today I guess was a good thing," Hellickson said. "But I've got to be more aggressive. I've got to be better than that and throw more strikes."

Hellickson reached 108 pitches with one out in the fifth after issuing his seventh walk -- a total that included walking the pitcher twice. Maddon called on ground-ball specialist Burke Badenhop at that point, and he came through, retiring John Buck on a 6-4-3 double play.

"That's why I'm here, to get the ball on the ground," Badenhop said. "Joe picked a good spot to get me in there against a right-handed hitter. It was nice [shortstop Sean Rodriguez] took his time, because he knew the speed of the runner and everything, so it worked out pretty nice."

Badenhop added a scoreless sixth inning to his line. Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney finished the final three innings, allowing a total of just two baserunners. In its last 44 games, the Rays' bullpen has pitched to a Major League-best 2.90 ERA while the team has gone 25-19.

The Rays built a 3-1 lead by scoring in three consecutive innings.

Matt Joyce doubled with two outs in the third off Ricky Nolasco. B.J. Upton followed with a single to left that drove home Joyce and put the Rays up, 1-0.

Will Rhymes' infield single in the fourth scored Jose Lobaton, then Joyce added a solo home run in the fifth on a 2-2 pitch off Nolasco to give him 10 dingers for the season and give the Rays a 3-1 lead.

Tampa Bay added two in the seventh on RBI singles by Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena to push the lead to 5-1.

"We really had to kind of battle and grind out some at-bats," Joyce said. "And I thought we did a great job. We had a lot of great at-bats. Coming in at 5 o'clock in the morning [from New York after playing the Yankees] is not always easy."

The Rays now trail in their all-time series with the Marlins, 38-42.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.