Hellickson out after two batters with hamstring injury (Nats lose 4-2)

ATLANTA - After watching their bullpen throw seven perfect innings during Saturday's 14-inning win, the last thing the Nationals needed was to have to turn to their relief corps early today. Which is exactly what happened after starter Jeremy Hellickson departed only two batters into the bottom of the first with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

Hellickson hurt himself trying to make a leaping catch of Mark Reynolds' high toss on Ozzie Albies' grounder to first. The ball caromed off Hellickson's glove, and as Albies kept running to second base, the right-hander grabbed his right hamstring and came to a stop in foul territory.

Thumbnail image for Hellickson-Throwing-Gray-Sidebar.jpgHellickson was still holding his leg as he spoke with manager Davey Martinez and director of athletic training Paul Lessard, ultimately walking off the field alongside Lessard as Martinez signaled to the left field bullpen.

Jefry Rodriguez, promoted this morning from Double-A Harrisburg after left-hander Tim Collins was placed on the paternity leave list, thus was forced to make his major league debut under unusual circumstances. The lanky 24-year-old threw 87 pitches in a start Thursday for the Senators, so he may only be available for a couple innings of work today.

Rodriguez becomes the 42nd player the Nationals have used this season, tied with the Mets and Angels for most in the majors. They've called up two other players (Austin Voth, Jhonatan Solano) who did not get into a game.

Martinez will have to piece together the rest of this game with six relievers who figure to be available: Rodriguez, Wander Suero, Shawn Kelley, Sammy Solís, Brandon Kintzler and Sean Doolittle. Justin Miller isn't available after pitching three innings Saturday, and Ryan Madson likely isn't available after pitching each of the last two days.

With an off-day Monday, Martinez won't need to worry about saving any relievers. And with four off-days coming up in the next two weeks, the Nationals could be able to get through this stretch with a four-man rotation. They shouldn't need a fifth starter again until June 19.

Update: The Nats didn't know what exactly they could expect from Rodriguez today, but he has now given them 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief on 51 pitches. He's throwing 95-97 mph and not looking fazed by the situation at all. He's also getting help from his defense, with Trea Turner and Michael A. Taylor combining to make three great plays in the bottom of the third. And Turner has supplied the offensive support as well, blasting an 0-2 pitch from Anibal Sanchez to left for his seventh homer of the season. The Nats lead 2-1 after four innings.

Update II: After 12 2/3 scoreless innings over the last two days, the Nationals bullpen finally gave in. Dansby Swanson belted Shawn Kelley's 2-0 pitch to left field to lead off the bottom of the seventh, and so this game is now tied 2-2. The Nats managed only two hits in seven innings off Sanchez. Now they'll have to rally off the Atlanta bullpen.

Update III: Game over. Charlie Culberson hit a two-run homer off Tanner Roark in the bottom of the ninth. Nats lose 4-2.

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