Hellickson, Phils combine for two-hitter

Hellickson, Phils combine for two-hitter

WASHINGTON -- What a difference nearly two weeks makes for Jeremy Hellickson.

On April 15, the Nationals hit him hard, scoring six runs over three innings in Philadelphia. Hellickson was virtually unhittable in a 3-0 victory Wednesday at Nationals Park. The Phillies have won four of their last five games in the nation's capital.

"[Hellickson] was sharp tonight," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "Some of the guys were complaining about some of the calls. Hellickson was painting tonight, changing speeds. He had a very good night. I don't want to say it was us because you don't want to discredit what he did tonight."

Hellickson went seven innings, allowing just two hits with eight strikeouts. The Nationals had runners in scoring position twice in the game. Their biggest chance to score off Hellickson came in the second inning. With runners on first and second and one out, Jose Lobaton hit into a double play to end the threat.

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez, meanwhile, lost his first game of the season. He gave up two runs -- one earned -- in 6 1/3 innings. The Phillies took the lead in the sixth, when Odubel Herrera scored on a sacrifice fly by Darin Ruf.

Ruf's sac fly

An inning later, Philadelphia added a run on an error by third baseman Anthony Rendon, whose high throw home permitted Cesar Hernandez to score.

Bourjos drives in Herrera

In the eighth, Carlos Ruiz knocked a solo homer off left-hander Sammy Solis.

Ruiz's solo home run

"People have asked me what my goal is for this year with the type of team we have," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "My goal is to play .500 and then we'll go from there depending on what transpires. But the thing I'm real happy about, especially after starting 0-4 … I've got a pretty good selection of pitchers that I feel comfortable with. That's the reason we're 11-10. The pitching has been outstanding."

Hellickson shines: The Phillies lost one of their only two veteran starters for the season this week, when Charlie Morton tore his left hamstring. Hellickson was the other. He stepped up against the Nationals, posting his best start of the season following two starts in which he allowed 10 runs in just 7 1/3 innings. More >

"It [stinks] losing Charlie," Hellickson said. "He was a great pitcher and even better in here. Everyone loved him, so that's a tough loss for us. We'll all continue battling. But, yeah, the last two starts were all I really needed for motivation tonight."

No offense at Nats Park: Daniel Murphy and Danny Espinosa were the only members of the Nationals to collect hits in Wednesday's game. Murphy gave Hellickson credit for being superb on the mound.

"I thought [Hellickson] threw the ball well," Murphy said. "Those guys get paid, too. … He mixed his pitches well, especially against me. He was commanding both sides of the plate, bringing stuff back on lefties. It looked like he had the right changeup working today." More > 

Herrera makes the Phillies go: Herrera singled to center field in the sixth inning to reach base safely in 18 consecutive games, which ties a career high. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sac fly by Ruf to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. More >

"I'm the first one facing the starting pitcher," Herrera said through the Phillies' interpreter. "That gives me a sense of responsibility. The more pitches I see, the more pitches whoever is batting behind me sees. It is great to feel I am doing a good job. Things are working out for me. I really like that."

Espinosa reaches milestone: Espinosa reached a career milestone in the fifth inning when he tallied career hit No. 500 by executing a bunt single off Hellickson.

"I felt good," Espinosa said. "It would have been great if we won the game. It would have been enjoyable."

Espinosa's 500th career hit

Carlos Ruiz has three home runs in 34 at-bats this season. He had two homers in 284 at-bats in 2015.

"[Jeanmar] Gomez is 6-for-6 in saves, and he looks like he's been doing it his whole career. If he maintains what he's doing right now … he might be our closer next year." -- Mackanin

"It's grinding quality at-bats, keep the line moving. Hopefully the more times we do that, the more traffic we get on the basepaths, the more opportunities you get to score. These last two days, opportunities to score are few and far between. Guys are putting pressure on themselves a little bit more. Right now, it's about grinding at-bats -- one through nine -- and try to get traffic out there. It gives us more opportunities to score runs." -- Murphy, on the offense

The Phillies have won four out of their last five games against the Nationals at Nationals Park.

Phillies: Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola (1-2, 4.50 ERA) starts in the series finale against the Nationals at 4:05 p.m. ET Thursday at Nationals Park. Nola surrendered a career-high seven runs in just five innings April 16 in a loss to the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park, but Nola rebounded in his last start, allowing one run in seven frames last weekend in Milwaukee.

Nationals: Right-hander Tanner Roark returns to the mound for the first time since his career best 15-strikeout performance on Saturday against the Twins. Game time is 4:05 p.m. ET against the Phillies. Roark is looking to win his third game of the season.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.