by Adam Sobsey
In his last 15 innings, Jeremy Hellickson has allowed four hits and zero runs, with 21 strikeouts and two walks. In his last outing, a 4-0 win over Gwinnett at the DBAP, he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. In the first inning of last night's 4-1 victory, he allowed a two-out double to Stefan Gartrell, then retired the next 16 hitters he faced. Thus Hellickson has no-hit each of his last two opponents for 5 1/3 innings. He left last night after seven shutout innings. He's currently the hottest pitcher in the minor leagues, according to Baseball America, and the No. 2 prospect overall. (Notice who's No. 1.)
The Bulls did nothing special at the plate last night, stranding 12 and going 3-14 with runners in scoring position. A night after his record-making 7-7 performance, Desmond Jennings went 0-5. The 1-2-3 hitters in the order for Durham were hitless in 15 plate appearances, with a pair of walks. The Bulls struck out 10 more times.
But it didn't matter: Hellickson was awesome, and Charlotte is officially terrible now. The Knights scored their only run when Brady Shoemaker hit newly called-up Heath Rollins's first pitch of the eighth inning for a solo homer. Rollins put another man on, and then Charlie Montoyo called in his executioner, Winston Abreu. Abreu struck out Keith Ginter to end the inning, but he broke his 11-inning hitless streak in the bottom of the ninth when he allowed a leadoff single to Gartrell. (If what we saw during Gartrell's late-season promotion heralds things to come, watch out for him in 2010.) Abreu walked Mike Restovich, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Wilson Betemit. But Betemit rolled into a 3-6-3 double play to hose down the threat, doused for good when Abreu went back to his bag of clubs and pulled out another K-wood on Justin Knoedler. It was the last home game of Charlotte's dreary season. They did fireworks at Knights Stadium anyway.
And there will be fireworks at the DBAP on Saturday night. If the Bulls beat Norfolk behind Rayner Oliveros, those pyrotechnics will be authentically celebratory: one more win will clinch the division title for Durham. Be there. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.