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Hellickson, Rays blank Angels again, take series

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 10:14 PM
ANAHEIM, Calif. -

The heat quickly became a problem for Jeremy Hellickson on Sunday afternoon and so were the fluids he drank before taking the mound in the first inning to combat that heat. So he walked to the grass behind the mound at Angel Stadium, bent over as if to adjust his uniform pants and, well, yuk.

Hellickson somehow managed to get sick without most of the more than 35,000 in the ballpark noticing.

"I hid it pretty well," he said.

Hellickson said he got sick four or five more times during the afternoon but waited until he reached the dugout between innings.

"He was chalkier than a Des Moines winter right there," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of the Iowa native. "He was hurting."

But you wouldn't have guessed that, judging by the way Hellickson breezed through the Angels lineup, holding them to two hits in six innings as the Rays won 2-0 to take two of three in the series.

The victory raised the Rays' record to 4-2 on this nine-game road trip and enabled them to gain a game on the American League wild card-leading A's and the Angels, who hold the second of the two wild-card spots.

What's more, the win gave the Rays momentum as they enter another big three-game series, this one with the A's that begins tonight in Oakland.

"We're playing better baseball," Maddon said. "I know we've won two games (in a row). I'm not going nuts about that. We're playing better."

The Rays did it Sunday with more opportunistic offense, solid defense and another shutdown day by a pitching staff that recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2008 and held the Angels scoreless during the final 23 innings of the three-game series.

"It's a very good hitting team and we were making the right pitches at the right time and playing good defense, too," said Joel Peralta, who pitched two scoreless innings during the series.

Fernando Rodney allowed a pair of one-out singles in the ninth inning, then fell behind Albert Pujols 3-0 before getting the Angels slugger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Zack Greinke made his Angels debut and allowed a pair of runs in seven innings. But Hellickson stole the show while somehow managing to keep the fluids down.

"What he did was great," Peralta said. "Getting sick and pitching like he did, that says a lot."

Hellickson said he felt nauseous when he woke Sunday morning but was feeling better by the 12:35 p.m. game time. The heat, though, became a problem on a sunny Southern California afternoon and he said he became lightheaded as the afternoon moved along. Still, he managed to retire the first nine batters he faced and pitched to only two over the minimum.

"My stuff felt good. My arm felt good. That's really all I needed to feel good," he said. "I just had to do it. I had to give us five or six (innings) to save the bullpen and I felt good enough to stay out there, so I didn't really need to come out."

Hellickson stuck with three pitches — fastball, curveball and change-up. He said the game plan was not to use the cutter, which is a pitch that has caused some problems for him this season.

"It was absolutely wonderful to watch him pitch that way," Maddon said.

Elliot Johnson, whose bloop double in the sixth inning helped the Rays score their first run, said Hellickson was throwing harder than he has all season.

"He was throwing his fastball by people," Johnson said. "I saw (catcher Jose Lobaton) not move his glove I don't how many times. It was impressive."

Maddon said he actually thought of taking Hellickson out during the second or third inning. But Hellickson said he felt well enough to pitch, and Maddon decided to let Hellickson gut it out, so to speak.

"No question. It was hot and he did not feel good from the time he arrived here. But that's him," Maddon said. "He just calmly goes out there. … Those quiet guys, you got to be heads up with because they're very tough."

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