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With Deadline looming, Hellickson struggles

Phillies right-hander allows six runs over five innings in loss to Brewers
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- The clock is ticking for Jeremy Hellickson and the Phillies. The July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, a date that for months has loomed in the distance, is now just single-digit days away.

The chances for Hellickson to prove his worth are numbered. Friday was his second-to-last start before Deadline day arrives, and he did not make the most of it. Hellickson tossed up a clunker in Saturday's 9-8 loss to the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park, allowing six runs in five innings.

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PHILADELPHIA -- The clock is ticking for Jeremy Hellickson and the Phillies. The July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, a date that for months has loomed in the distance, is now just single-digit days away.

The chances for Hellickson to prove his worth are numbered. Friday was his second-to-last start before Deadline day arrives, and he did not make the most of it. Hellickson tossed up a clunker in Saturday's 9-8 loss to the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park, allowing six runs in five innings.

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"That's not a start I want no matter what's going on," Hellickson said. "It just sucks, you know, scoring eight runs and you lose. Usually that falls on the starter, which it did tonight."

It was his fourth start allowing six-plus runs this season. All have come after the month of April when it seemed the Phils would have no issues working out a trade come July given that, at the time, he held a 3.45 ERA, .234 opposing batting average and .283 on-base percentage in his 37 starts with the Phillies dating back to the beginning of 2016.

Last season, the Phillies nearly dealt Hellickson at the Deadline. When that fell through, the club extended him a $17.1 million qualifying offer, which the 30-year-old former American League Rookie of the Year Award winner accepted.

Through April, he looked to be a surefire trade chip. His 1.80 ERA and 0.80 WHIP ranked fourth and third in the National League, respectively. Since then, Hellickson's ERA ranked 101st of 122 starters with at least 50 innings entering play Saturday, a figure that will only get worse with his outing vs. Milwaukee.

He did show off his best offering, his changeup, striking out five batters with the pitch, tied for the most in a start this season. The five bumped him up to third in the bigs in strikeouts via the changeup with 41, accounting for 63 percent of his punchouts.

But it came with limitations.

With two outs in the third, Brewers first baseman Eric Thames worked an eight-pitch at-bat, punctuated with a wayward changeup that awarded him a free pass to first. The Brewers scored all four of their third-inning runs with two outs with Hellickson just a pitch away from silencing the threat.

"I think [the start] was good except for that four-batter span there in that third inning. I just got to find a way to -- can't walk Thames with two outs. I think all the runs were with two outs. I just got to find a way to get out of that inning after the second out," Hellickson said.

Thames singled two innings later to cap off another eight-pitch at-bat on a changeup at the knees. Ryan Braun, who upped his career OPS at Citizens Bank Park to 1.205 in 30 games, followed Thames and homered to put the Brewers up, 6-0.

Video: MIL@PHI: Braun launches a two-run home run

"I thought there was some good [changeups], but the ones that I left up got hit again," Hellickson said.

There was no uptick in scouts present at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, meaning either teams have seen all they need or they're honed in on his final pre-Deadline start, which should come Friday against the Braves.

"He didn't pitch well tonight, but you know, it happens," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.

What may happen as a result of Hellickson's inability to replicate his early-season success is two more months for the right-hander in red pinstripes.

Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Phillies, Jeremy Hellickson