- - Wednesday, July 11, 2018

PITTSBURGH — The wins have been tough to come by in the last month for Nationals starting pitchers, something that is hard to fathom considering the team’s history the last few years in that department.

And this year that includes Jeremy Hellickson, who made the start Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, picking up his first victory since May 29.

The Iowa native lasted five innings as Washington beat the Pirates 5-1. Daniel Murphy had four hits and rookie Juan Soto added three in a game that was delayed 50 minutes by the threat of rain before the first pitch.

Hellickson spent time on the disabled list last month and then didn’t feel well the past few days. But he picked up just the third win for a Washington starter since June 7 as he did not give up a run while allowing two hits with three strikeouts.

“I just felt good in general,” said Hellickson, standing by his locker as midnight approached. “I think I had a pretty good changeup tonight. Just getting ahead was probably the biggest thing. Me and (catcher Spencer Kieboom) were on the same page for the most part. I had some great plays behind me. Like I said throwing a lot of strikes.”

“I felt good,” he added. “I would have liked to have gone a little deeper. But we just needed a win. It was just good to feel good again. The last five days have been pretty rough. I don’t really remember much. It was good to get out there and get a win.”

Hellickson, in his first year with the Nats, was due to bat in the top of the sixth with the Nationals ahead 2-0.

But with the bases loaded and one out manager Dave Martinez decided to use pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds, who was named the National League player of the week on Monday after he had 10 RBI in one game last week.

“You have bases loaded, you have an opportunity to break open the game right there so that’s what I decided to do,” Martinez said. “Mark has been swinging the bat really hot. Hellickson gave us five strong innings after coming off being sick. I thought we could score some runs right there and we did.”

Hellickson, who improved to 3-1, understood the move by his manager.

“I think actually Spence got a hit before I was even on deck,” he said. “I was walking out to the plate and he called me back. That was it. I definitely understand. I mean it’s 2-0. You’ve got Reynolds who is on fire right now. So I definitely understand.”

Murphy lifted his average to .250, and had two doubles.

“I saw the ball better today. I think I saw the ball better today than I did yesterday,” Murphy said.

It was a rough night for Bryce Harper, who played center field for the Nationals. He fanned his first four trips to the plate and was 0-for-5.

“Just a bad game,” Martinez said.

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