Rays stifled again in rematch with D-backs' Miley
Walks prove costly for Hellickson; Longoria clubs solo shot
PHOENIX -- Wade Miley wasn't as perplexing on Tuesday night at Chase Field as the D-backs' left-hander had been last week at Tropicana Field.
Nevertheless, the results were just the same as Miley led the D-backs to a 6-1 win over the Rays with 19,458 watching.
"He was good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But we hit the ball a lot better tonight. We were a little bit unlucky offensively."
The Rays (66-46) are now 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Red Sox in the American League East despite winning 13 of their past 18 games. However, they have lost three of their last five games after winning 19 of their previous 22. And while they suffered their fourth loss against a National League club this season, the Rays' .750 Interleague winning percentage (12-4) remains the best in the Major Leagues.
Last Wednesday, Miley threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings in the D-backs' 7-0 win. On Tuesday night, he allowed one run on five hits in seven innings to claim his ninth win of the season.
Miley has been on a bit of a roll lately, pitching to a 1.54 ERA in his past seven starts. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 12 straight starts since June 5.
"I've just been more aggressive, confident and going after guys," Miley said. "Trying not to do too much. Earlier I was getting upset with myself over one or two minor mistakes, and it caused things to escalate. There are times when I get too quick and I just have to step off and regroup. When I get in a rhythm and get guys out early, that's when I have success."
The one blemish on Miley's line Tuesday night came when Evan Longoria hit his 22nd home run of the season, a solo shot with one out in the fourth. The home run was his first in a National League park since June 26, 2011, at Houston. He is a career .309 hitter with 11 home runs on the road during Interleague Play.
Longoria's home run, though well appreciated given the tailspin that the Rays' slugger has been in lately, wasn't nearly enough. The D-backs answered in the bottom half of the inning with some help from Jeremy Hellickson, who walked the leadoff batter, Paul Goldschmidt.
Eric Chavez's RBI double tied the score before Hellickson again became his worst enemy by walking Aaron Hill.
"To walk Goldschmidt to start the inning is not a good thing," Maddon said. "And then Chavez, 3-1 double, that's not a good thing."
Cody Ross followed with his eighth home run of the season to put the D-backs up, 4-1.
"We got that run, then Helly gave up that four-spot," Maddon said. "That really took the momentum away from us and made them better. Had we been able to put up a zero in the fourth after the homer, I think it could have been a different game because we had a lot of hard outs. We hit some balls really well for outs. So I liked our approach better vs. Miley tonight. But the four-spot did hurt."
Ross complimented the quality of Hellickson's pitches.
"To be honest with you, when I first faced Hellickson I had a tough time, he's got good stuff," Ross said. "He locates the ball well and his changeup is as good as anybody's in the game. Luckily for me, he left a fastball over the middle, it probably wasn't a good pitch for him, and I was able to get some good wood on it. He's good though, he's a really good pitcher."
Hellickson took his second consecutive loss -- both against the D-backs -- after allowing five runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings.
"When you get behind in the count to guys who are pretty good hitters, that can put you behind the eight ball," Maddon said. "He's very capable of getting ahead of those guys and getting those guys out. Overall the command within the strike zone is probably not that good right now."
Uncharacteristically, Hellickson has given up five walks and nine runs in his past two starts. The road loss was his first since April 25 against the White Sox in Chicago, and the five earned runs were the most he has allowed since June 13 when he allowed eight against the Royals. While he did manage to record his first career hit when he singled with two outs in the fifth, he took no solace in his bat work, which would have been celebrated by all of the pitchers had the Rays won.
"I feel good," Hellickson said. "My command's just a little off right now. It's pretty embarrassing not to be able to get through the fifth two games in a row. Just have to move on and just go get them Sunday."