Nationals manager Davey Martinez said the second game of the doubleheader turned back into starter Jeremy Hellickson’s favor Saturday night when he started to use his fastball more. The Reds were looking for his off-speed stuff, but when he regained his confidence in his fastball, results arrived.
The Nats defeated the Reds 6-2, and Hellickson recorded his fifth win of the season. He allowed only two runs on four hits, did not walk a batter and struck out three.
Hellickson agreed with his manager that his fastball was important but also noticed his cutter was working better than he has felt it recently.
“My fastball command was good tonight,” Hellickson said. “Even the homer there, first batter, I didn’t think it was a bad pitch. I thought my cutter was really good. It really hasn’t been there the last few games. But I think fastball command, cutter were pretty good tonight.”
Did he feel any added pressure to do well after the team lost game one 7-1?
“I wouldn’t say pressure,” Hellickson said. “When the bullpen comes in that early and you try to go deep into a game, you really put more pressure on yourself. You just got to go out and get early outs and just try to keep the pitch count down.”
His teammates have noticed how effective Hellickson has been, even though he didn’t make his Nats debut until April 16.
“He’s been great. We’ve needed him, bad,” said right fielder Bryce Harper. “He’s come in and done his job and really picked us up in the second game, and picked up the bullpen as well. He did a great job. He goes out there and gives us five or six strong, and he’s been great for us.”
The Nationals lost the first game of the doubleheader 7-1, but bounced back in the nightcap, 6-2. Now they still have a chance at three of four in the series Sunday.
“That’s what we need to do is win the series,” said reliever Ryan Madson. “That’s the motto from here on out. Just win every series and see where we’re at. I think everybody’s focused on that and feels good with that. Guys are scoring a bunch of runs. It’s nice for us pitchers.”
* Rookie left fielder Juan Soto had two hits in game one and two hits in game two Saturday. Elias Sports Bureau noted Soto is the first teenager since the Brewers’ Robin Yount in 1975 to have two hits in each game of a doubleheader. Soto notched a double and then a single in his first two at-bats of each game.
“For me, it’s just come here and play,” Soto said. “I think just if I (play) in the first one I’m going to get in the second one. I always think like that. I had the chance to get on base and have my thing.”
Soto is hitting .313 with 16 doubles, one triple, 13 homers, 37 RBIs in 65 games. and is a two-time National League Rookie of the Month.