BRADENTON – Jeremy Hellickson had to be honest.
When the Tampa Bay Rays decided to tab him to start Game 4 of the American League Division Series, the righty was a bit surprised.
Albeit pleasantly surprised.
Thanks to Monday’s dramatic win in Game 3, Hellickson will have at least one more start tonight when he takes the ball against the Boston Red Sox as the Rays look to push the ALDS to a decisive Game 5 at Fenway Park.
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First pitch tonight is 8:37 p.m.
A Rookie of the Year in 2011, Hellickson scuffled this year, going 12-10 with a 5.17 ERA while enduring a minor-league demotion to rest his arm.
But the Rays chose him over rookie Chris Archer, who posted a 3.22 ERA but is close to reaching his innings limit, to start in the playoffs.
“I know what I did the last two months didn’t sit too well with guys making the decision,” said Hellickson, who was 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA in August. “And I was very happy they still had confidence in me going out there in a playoff game. The way Archer threw the ball this year was unbelievable. Like I said, I was surprised. But I’m happy and very excited.”
Hellickson did have successful spurts this season, including an 8-1 run in June and July. So he does have a track record, as well as a 4-2 career record against the Red Sox.
He also hasn’t pitched since last Tuesday in Toronto.
“When he’s given rest and actually extended rest, he normally comes back pretty well,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon. “We did that beginning of September, at the end of August, he came back and threw the ball well. This is a pretty good rest he’s had between the last time he pitched and the time he’s going to start next.
“I feel strongly getting to the game (today) you’re going to see a very good performance.”
Hellickson said Monday he was preparing to pitch Tuesday, even though the result of Game 3 was unknown.
Turns out that preparation won’t go for naught.
“(Tuesday) is a new beginning and I can’t really dwell on what I did during the regular season,” Hellickson said. “It wasn’t my best, but I get a second chance (today).”
BIRTHDAY BLAST: Evan Longoria turned 28 on Monday and became the second player to hit a postseason home run on his birthday.
The first was Kansas City’s Willie Mays Aikens during the 1980 World Series.
“I think anytime you’re playing in October and your birthday is in October, it’s a pretty good birthday in itself,” Longoria said. “to come through in that moment makes it all the more special.”
LOOK FAMILIAR?: Monday marked the Rays’ second postseason walk-off win. The other also came against the Red Sox during Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, when Fernando Perez scored on B.J. Upton’s sacrifice fly in the 11th inning. The Rays had 13 walk-off wins this year, tying the franchise mark set in 2011.
WALKOFF REMINDER: Jose Lobaton’s game-winning home run in the ninth was the fourth walk-off postseason home run ever against the Red Sox and first since New York Yankees’ third baseman Aaron Boone hit one during the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series.
WILL WIL PLAY?: Rookie rightfielder Wil Myers was removed from the game because of cramping in his legs. Maddon said he was told Myers was dehydrated.
“He should probably be fine by (today),” Maddon said.
MR. PERFECT: Quintin Berry pinch ran for David Ortiz in the eighth and stole second, making him 27 for 27 in steal attempts in his career.
Replays, however, showed Berry was out.
ABOUT JAKE: Jake Peavy, the Red Sox starter in Game 4, is 3-1 with a 4.91 ERA in six starts in his career against the Rays, and was 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in two starts against them this year.