Washington Nationals: Jeremy Hellickson flirts with history

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SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 8: Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Washington Nationals pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on May 8, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 8: Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Washington Nationals pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on May 8, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /
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In a surprise pitchers duel, Washington Nationals starter Jeremy Hellickson was perfect through six innings. After his bid ended, the Nats won a close one.

The story in Tuesday night’s game was Jeremy Hellickson trying to chase the Washington Nationals‘ fourth no-hitter since moving back to DC. Although he fell short of this feat, he’s making a case to be left deeper into games.

Facing a San Diego Padres team who were no-hit by the Dodgers just four days ago, Hellickson started strong. He sat down the first 18 Padres hitters on 79 pitches, with only two truly hard hit balls. Both happened in back-to-back ABs in the fifth inning.

Hellickson has been a real steal for the Nationals so far this season as the fifth starter. This kind of outing only strengthens that argument, but how will Davey Martinez change his approach to the right-hander after this start?

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The Nats manager has been very quick to the pull Hellickson once he starts facing hitters for the third time. It would be good to see a little more leeway from Martinez, and in the long run it will benefit his bullpen. Something he will need to consider moving forward.

Zimmerman returns, does damage

After a cautious approach to his recovery from some side soreness, Ryan Zimmerman returned to the lineup. And against lefty Clayton Richard, he had a solid 2 for 4 effort on the night. This raised his season average against left-handers to an impressive .314.

Zimmerman didn’t only catch the eye with his bat in this one. He made an incredible slide to score on Andrew Stevenson‘s sac fly. Skillfully evading the tag of Raffy Lopez, he added to the Nats lead, and managed to save them from using Sean Doolittle late in this one.

Bryce Harper slumping atop the order

A lot of the Nats hitters are swinging hot bats, unfortunately Bryce Harper is not one of those players. He was 0 for 4 on the night, but things have been trending the wrong way for a few days now.

It’s Harper’s fourth straight 0 for 4 performance, and he’s also hitless in his last 19 ABs. Obviously, nobody is concerned about Harper in the long-term as one of the most dynamic talents in the game. But this run is something to keep in mind, especially for someone hitting leadoff.

He’s going to get the most ABs of anyone on the team, and if he continues to be hitless, a change will need to be made. This could come as soon as Wednesday’s game with the Padres, with another lefty on the mound, where Trea Turner may make the most sense.

Next: Matt Adams steals the spotlight

The Nationals will look for a second sweep in their last three series on Wednesday against the Padres. Gio Gonzalez squares off against rookie Joey Lucchesi at the “early” hour of 9:05pm in what promises to be a tight encounter.

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