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Jeremy Hellickson helps Philadelphia Phillies beat New York Mets

By
Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange
Former Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (58). Photo by Mark Goldman/UPI
Former Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (58). Photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK -- Jeremy Hellickson is having a far better April than usual for the Philadelphia Phillies, who just might have a much better month than they or anyone else could have expected a few days ago.

Hellickson threw 5 2/3 solid innings on Sunday afternoon to earn his first victory for the Phillies, who won their second straight game by beating the New York Mets 5-2 at Citi Field.

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It was the second straight solid start for Hellickson, who allowed an unearned run over six innings on Opening Day against the Cincinnati Reds. He entered this season with a 4.70 ERA in April dating back to 2013. (He missed April 2014 recovering from elbow surgery.)

"Just feels good to throw well this early," Hellickson said. "I haven't had a lot of success in the last few Aprils. (To) get off to a pretty good start means a lot. And to take this series was huge."

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The Phillies (2-4) were outscored 26-12 in their first four games before taking two of three from the Mets for their first series win at Citi Field since May 9-11, 2014. Prior to Saturday, Philadelphia had dropped 14 of its last 17 at Citi Field.

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"To face the pitching staff that the Mets have, to win two out of three games -- we're thrilled about it," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.

Hellickson, whom the Phillies acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in November, allowed two runs on three hits and one walk while striking out five. The right-hander, who turned 29 on Friday, retired the first 11 batters he faced and carried a one-hit shutout into the sixth.

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"Pretty good," Mackanin said. "You can't sit on any one pitch with him. He just mixes pitches, changes speeds, locations. He really knows how to pitch; I think he kept them off-balance the whole day. He did that against Cincinnati. It's really nice to see."

Hellickson was staked to a 3-0 lead via a third-inning sacrifice fly by Freddy Galvis and a two-run homer in the sixth inning by Odubel Herrera. That gave Hellickson some margin for error in the bottom of the sixth, when he retired the first two batters before giving up a double to David Wright and engaging in a 11-pitch battle with Yoenis Cespedes that ended with Cespedes hammering a two-run homer to left.

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Hellickson was pulled for James Russell, who retired Lucas Duda to end the sixth. Hector Neris struck out three in two perfect innings before Jeanmar Gomez earned his second save with a one-hit ninth.

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It was the second straight impressive performance by Phillies relievers, who lowered their overall ERA from 12.66 to 7.94 with 6 1/3 shutout innings the last two games.

"They were outstanding," Hellickson said. "We said it the first couple games when they struggled that they'd bounce back. Still had (all the) confidence in the world in them. They showed what they're capable of doing the last couple days."

Ryan Howard lofted a sacrifice fly in the eighth and Andres Blanco delivered a pinch-hit RBI double in the ninth for the final two Phillies runs.

Cesar Hernandez went 2-for-4 for the third straight game for the Phillies, who begin their first homestand of the season on Monday -- a 10-game set in which they'll face the San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals and Mets.

"We feel fine," Herrera said through an interpreter. "We have a pretty good offense and we feel like we can beat anybody. We're not putting ourselves down for losing a few games."

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The defending National League champion Mets (2-3) aren't down on themselves either, but remain aware they'll need to shake off the cobwebs pretty soon. New York had just four hits Sunday -- two each by Cespedes and Wright -- and only 14 runs this season.

"I think the at-bats are pretty good, we're just not getting the barrel to the ball," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Therefore, we're not doing any damage."

Matt Harvey fell to 0-2 after allowing three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out three over six innings. He has lost consecutive starts for just the fourth time as a major leaguer.

"We've had this discussion in the past: We're not giving him much room for error," Collins said. "We aren't scoring."

NOTES: Mets RHP Jacob deGrom (sore right lat) will not start Wednesday. RHP Logan Verrett will take his spot in the series finale against the Miami Marlins. DeGrom, who left his start Friday after six innings due to the injury, said he felt better Sunday and hoped to only miss one start. ... The Mets' new Class A South Atlantic League affiliate, the Columbia Fireflies, earned the first win in franchise history Saturday, when a trio of pitchers -- RHP Thomas McIlraith, RHP Alex Palsha and RHP Johnny Magliozzi -- combined to no-hit Charleston. ... Phillies RHP Vince Velasquez struck out nine in his Philadelphia debut Saturday -- the most strikeouts by a Phillies' pitcher in his debut since RHP Roy Halladay also whiffed nine on April 5, 2010. ... The Phillies played their first game at Veterans Stadium 45 years ago Sunday. Bench coach Larry Bowa had the first hit at the Vet, a single.

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