Jeremy Hellickson wins first 3 starts to help Rays gain on first in AL East

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays are determined to stick with their plan for Jeremy Hellickson, no matter how well does as a starter.

Hellickson threw six sharp innings to become the first Tampa Bay pitcher to win his first three major league starts, and the Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 on Sunday.

"I felt really good out there," he said. "Maybe not as good as the first two starts, but I settled down after the third inning."

Rays starters Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis, sidelined by right shoulder strains, will throw off a mound Monday and could be ready to return in the next two weeks. When the pair rejoin the rotation, the Rays currently plan to have Hellickson and Andy Sonnanstine switch to relief roles.

"I really, firmly, believe in when you make plans you stay with your plans and you only adjust when you have to," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "For right now we're still on task and schedule."

Hellickson (3-0) allowed one run and three hits, becoming the first player since 1920 to pitch at least six innings and give up three or less hits in each of his first three games. The right-hander has yielded three runs and nine hits over 20 innings in the majors.

"He utilized changeups right and left," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "It's unusual to see a guy with that good of a changeup that will attack right-handers with it. It's a testament to the type of the stuff the young man has."

Carl Crawford homered and drove in two runs for Tampa Bay, a sluggish 4-7 in its last 11 games.

Jake Fox went deep for the Orioles, who were trying to win four consecutive series for the first time since August 3-15, 2004. Jake Arrieta (4-4) gave up three runs and six hits over six innings.

Baltimore has lost two in a row for the first time under Showalter, who is 9-4 overall since taking over on August 3. The Orioles, 17-43 away from Camden Yards this season, went 3-3 on a six-game road trip.

"We don't look at 'X' number of games won on a road trip is a success or failure," Showalter said. "You don't ever think, well, we're just playing with house money today."

Rafael Soriano, the third Tampa Bay reliever, pitched the ninth for his 33rd save, completing the five-hitter. The Rays limited Baltimore to four hits in a 7-3 victory on Saturday.

Crawford hit his 13th homer in the first and singled in a run in Tampa Bay's two-run third. Matt Joyce's RBI double made it 3-1.

Felix Pie hit a sacrifice fly in the second for Baltimore, and Fox hit his sixth homer off Dan Wheeler in the seventh.

Rays right-hander Joaquin Benoit gave up a two-out triple in the eighth to Nick Markakis, but worked out of trouble by striking out Ty Wigginton, who had his 11-game hitting streak end.

Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria made a nifty sliding catch near the wall on Markakis' foul ball in the first.

Game notes
The AL wild card-leading Rays will have David Price (15-5) on the mound Monday night for the opener of a three-game series against AL West-leading Texas. Cliff Lee (10-5) is scheduled to pitch for the Rangers. ... Orioles RHP Jason Berken will have an MRI exam Monday on his right shoulder. ... Longoria has not homered in his last 17 games, and has gone deep just three times over his past 49 games.