BALTIMORE (AP) — For the first time in six weeks, Jeremy Hellickson had a victory to savor.
The Tampa Bay right-hander took a three-hitter into the seventh inning to earn his first win in 10 starts, and the Rays defeated the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 on Tuesday night.
Hellickson (5-6) gave up one run and three hits in 6 1-3 innings, striking out four and walking none. He was 0-6 since beating Boston on May 16, the second-longest losing streak by a Tampa Bay pitcher since the start of the 2008 season.
Asked if he was relieved to put the skid behind him, Hellickson replied, “Yeah, I am. … It feels really good. A good team win tonight.”
Light-hitting Brooks Conrad homered and Jeff Keppinger had two hits and an RBI for the Rays, who were playing their first road game since the All-Star break. Tampa Bay made the most of six hits in bouncing back from two straight 2-1 defeats against Seattle.
“That was a big win for us tonight to get the road trip off on the right foot,” said Conrad, whose two-run drive in the fifth inning put the Rays up 2-1.
After Hellickson left, Jake McGee struck out the only two batters he faced and Joel Peralta worked a perfect eighth. In the ninth, Fernando Rodney got three outs around two walks to complete the three-hitter and pick up his 28th save in 29 tries.
Adam Jones hit his 23rd homer for the Orioles, who have lost two straight following a five-game winning streak. Baltimore has allowed three runs or fewer in seven straight games.
In this one, however, the Orioles couldn’t muster enough offense to back starter Wei-Yin Chen (8-6), who yielded three runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings. The Taiwanese left-hander issued three walks, and two of those runners came around to score.
“He deserved a little bit better fate. Their guy was real good, too,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Three hits is going to be tough to win many games.”
The credit goes to Hellickson, who kept Baltimore off balance by throwing his fastball for strikes and mixing in an effective changeup.
“Helley did good. Helley was more aggressive with the fastball in the strike zone,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “I thought he pitched a brighter game tonight. I liked it.”
Sam Fuld, activated off the 60-day disabled list by Tampa Bay before the game, went 1-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base in his season debut. He had been sidelined since undergoing wrist surgery on April 3.
Tampa Bay went up 2-1 in the fifth when Fuld walked and Conrad homered with two outs. Conrad, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, stepped to the plate with a .180 average and one homer in 50 at-bats.
“I hit a slider,” Conrad said. “Shortened my swing up, ended up catching it out front and I got it pretty good.”
The Rays added a run in the sixth. B.J. Upton drew a leadoff walk, reached third with one out and scored on a bloop single by Keppinger.
Both starting pitchers were in control early. Neither team got a runner past first base until the fourth inning, when Jones hit a 1-1 fastball over the wall in center field. It was his third home run in 21 career at-bats against Hellickson.
NOTES: After the game, Tampa Bay obtained INF Ryan Roberts from Arizona for Class AA infielder Tyler Bortnick. … Tampa Bay took a 4-3 lead in the season series and improved to 124-123 all-time against Baltimore. … Four of the team-high 18 homers allowed by Hellickson have been hit by the Orioles. … Chen has given up eight home runs in his last seven starts after yielding only eight in his first 13 outings. …… The Orioles fell to 34-16 in games decided by one or two runs. … Rays LHP David Price will vie for his major league-leading 14th win on Wednesday night. Rookie Miguel Gonzalez (2-1) will start for Baltimore. … Keppinger is batting .458 (27-for-59) against left-handers this season. … The Orioles signed 25-year old Cuban outfielder Hentry Urrutia to a minor league contract. Urrutia, who played in the Cuban League from 2006-10, will be assigned to Double-A Bowie.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.