SAN DIEGO (AP) — Jeremy Hellickson didn’t give the San Diego Padres a chance over the first six innings.
It was 18 up and 18 down for the Padres, who only four nights earlier had been no-hit by four Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers in Monterrey, Mexico. And here they were back home, looking totally lost against Hellickson’s curveball and changeup.
“Everybody says they don’t think about it, but once you get the fifth, sixth inning, you can’t help but think about it,” Hellickson said after leading the Washington Nationals to a 4-0 win Tuesday night by allowing only two hits while striking out eight in 6 2/3 innings. “But once you get on the mound you kind of forget about it and just try to do what you’ve been doing to get to that point.”
Hellickson was perfect until Travis Jankowski singled up the middle leading off the seventh, on his 83rd pitch. Hellickson, a 31-year-old who joined the Nationals on a minor league deal in mid-March, struck out Eric Hosmer and retired rookie Christian Villanueva on a flyball before Franchy Cordero singled to left. Manager Dave Martinez then pulled the right-hander in favor of Ryan Madson, who retired Jose Pirela on one pitch.
Hellickson (1-0) knew warming up in the bullpen that he was going to have a good night.
“I felt good,” he said. “The ball was going where I wanted it. I think the curveball was probably my best pitch tonight. I was able to get ahead with it and bounce it when I needed to.”
Hellickson, who came in with four straight no-decisions, didn’t issue a walk while throwing 91 pitches. He also hit an RBI double in the seventh.
“He was throwing strikes,” Martinez said. “All of his pitches were working. He was working ahead of the count. That’s what you get from Jeremy when he’s on. He pitched really well. Today he was outstanding.”
Hellickson gave up consecutive flyballs to the warning track in the fifth inning but then struck out Raffy Lopez. In the sixth, he got Freddy Galvis to ground out before striking out Manuel Margot and pitcher Clayton Richard.
“When he’s on, he’s got a plus-plus breaking ball,” San Diego manager Andy Green said. “He had that today. Really gets in on hands to speed guys up. There’s days when he doesn’t have that breaking ball and he gets funneled to the middle of the plate and gets squared up from time to time. I’ve seen him throw some really good baseball games. I thought he threw the ball well today. The breaking ball was real.”
The Padres had only three hits in getting shut out for the fifth time.
Richard (1-5) had a good start, too, by facing only one over the minimum through four, before getting hit hard to open the fifth. Howie Kendrick hit a leadoff single and scored on Matt Adams’ opposite-field double to left over a shift. Pedro Severino followed with an RBI single.
Richard allowed three runs and seven hits in eight innings. He also struck out eight without issuing a walk.
The big left-hander said there was “nothing huge, just able to get in a rhythm and attack the strike zone. There wasn’t anything special about it. Just keeping the ball down in making pitches down in the zone for the most part and pitching ahead.”
Said Green: “He was sharp today. Loved what he did. Attacked early. We just didn’t do anything offensively to support him today. He looked good all day.”
Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 2.33) is scheduled to start the series finale Wednesday night. His ERA ranks eighth in the NL.
Padres: Rookie LHP Joey Lucchesi (3-2, 3.13) faces the Nats for the first time. He took the loss Friday night in the Dodgers’ combined no-hitter.
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