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Nothing to it as ailing Hellickson outduels Greinke

Nothing to it as ailing Hellickson outduels Greinke

ANAHEIM -- Joe Maddon wasn't blowing smoke when he said, "I'm happy to have Jeremy Hellickson pitching for us."

That remark from the Rays manager came in response to repeated questions about the Rays having to face Zack Greinke, who was making his first start for the Angels on Sunday after getting traded out West from Milwaukee on Friday.

All Maddon's guy did was fight off nausea to match the former Cy Young Award winner inning for inning until the Rays finally generated some offense en route to a 2-0 win.

"Hellickson had as good or better stuff than [Greinke] did today, for me," Maddon said. "From where I'm watching, I'm talking fastball, I'm talking changeup, his curveball today. ... Greinke's good, but I like our guys a lot, too."

By winning, the Rays claimed the weekend series with their second straight shutout while moving to 4-2 on the current road trip and 53-49 on the season.

Rays pitchers have now posted 23 consecutive scoreless frames. Posting back-to-back shutouts is a feat that has been performed just four times in franchise history. Coincidentally, the last time Rays pitchers turned the trick was May 9-10, 2008, against the Angels.

Hellickson allowed no runs on two hits while striking out five in six innings to earn his sixth win of the season. And he would have pitched longer had he not been sick. The Iowa native fought nausea from the time he took the mound.

"First inning, I actually threw up on the mound," said Hellickson, who noted that he threw up "five or six times" on the day. "Then I threw up in the dugout a couple of times. ... Got a little light-headed later in the game."

Maddon had to walk a fine line, balancing Hellickson's problem against how well he was pitching, which is why Maddon pulled him after 86 pitches. The 2011 American League Rookie of the Year earned the praises of Angels manager Mike Scioscia for his performance.

"Well, he changed speeds as well as you can," Scioscia said. "I think early we hit some balls hard. We had, probably the first three innings we hit three or four balls right on the screws right at guys and made some nice plays. After that, he settled down and pitched six strong innings. Good changeup, good fastball, mixed in some good breaking balls. He pitched a terrific ballgame, no doubt about it."

After both pitchers had posted five zeros on the board, Elliot Johnson blooped a double into right field off Greinke to lead off the sixth.

Desmond Jennings tried to bunt Johnson over to third, but his two-strike attempt rolled foul for the first out.

Would the failed sacrifice haunt the Rays? Against a pitcher like Greinke, any mistake can be magnified. So what did the Rays do? They made another blunder when the next hitter, Sam Fuld, hit one back to Greinke, who fielded the ball and turned to catch Johnson running on the hit. But Johnson managed to stay in a rundown long enough for Fuld to make it to second base to effectively negate the mistake.

"Off the bat, I'm thinking the ball is ticketed for center field," Johnson said. "... I realize, you're technically supposed to wait and see if it goes through. But if you hesitate and it gets through, you're probably going to get held up at third. So as soon as the ball was hit, I was going.

"Greinke snagged it somehow. Then my job was to stay in the rundown as long as I could. And Sam did a great job of getting over there and I stayed there long enough for him to get there."

Ben Zobrist followed by hitting a chopper toward the mound. Greinke jumped to make the play, but the ball just got over his glove to put runners at first and third for Matt Joyce.

Joyce came through by lacing a single through the right side to put the Rays up 1-0.

The Angels tried to answer in the sixth, getting a runner to second with one out. Hellickson responded to the challenge by striking out Maicer Izturis and retiring Howie Kendrick on a groundout to end the inning.

Carlos Pena doubled down the right-field line to open the seventh and he moved third on a groundout. With Jose Lobaton hitting, Greinke then uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Pena to score the Rays' second run.

Greinke took his first loss in an Angels uniform despite allowing just two runs over seven innings and striking out eight. Since the beginning of the 2008 season, the Rays have gone 35-14 against teams starting a former Cy Young Award winner.

Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney covered the final three innings. Rodney, who earned his 30th save of the season, escaped a ninth-inning jam by getting Albert Pujols to hit into a game-ending double-play with two runners aboard.

"They're picking us up right now," said Johnson of the Rays' pitching. "Hopefully we can score some runs and give them a little bit of coasting time, a little bit of breathing room. It's almost like we're getting them two, then saying, 'OK guys, go get 'em.' Eventually we will pick them back up. But that's kind of how the team is built and I think everybody understands that."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for
Read More: Tampa Bay Rays, Jeremy Hellickson