Hellickson makes third start for Orioles vs. Athletics (Aug 13, 2017)

OAKLAND, Calif. — Some trades are better than others — for players and teams.

When right-hander Jeremy Hellickson was traded by the Phillies to Baltimore on July 28, he went from a last-place team in the National League East to a team in the middle of a heated American League playoff race.

“That’s definitely the best part,” Hellickson said Saturday of getting traded. “It was a good group over there. I had fun with those guys, but we didn’t have a chance to make the playoffs. You know, you win a game but it doesn’t really mean anything.

“You come over here and every win matters, every game matters. That’s why we’re playing. It’s fun to be back in that kind of atmosphere and clubhouse.”

Hellickson will make his third start for the Orioles on Sunday afternoon in the finale of a four-game series against the Oakland Athletics and right-hander Kendall Graveman at the Oakland Coliseum.

The Orioles lead the series 2-1 after a 12-5 rout of the A’s on Saturday night. They trail the Los Angeles Angels by 1 1/2 games for the second wild-card spot.

During each of his first four major league seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays from 2010-2013, Hellickson pitched in playoff races. But in 2014 with the Rays, 2015 with Arizona and 2016 and most of this season with Philadelphia, he pitched for teams that were far back in the pack.

Hellickson is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA, 12 strikeouts and two walks over 13 innings in two starts for Baltimore. In his Orioles’ debut on Aug. 2 at Camden Yards, he threw seven shutout innings on five hits in a 6-0 victory against Kansas City.

“The night before the first start was probably the most nervous I’d been in a while,” Hellickson said. “Just because we were playing so well and the guys were pitching well. So I was a little nervous the night before but I was fine the next day.

“It’s a good group. They made me feel comfortable right when I came over. And then just being in a race again, it’s going to be a fun month and a half.”

Hellickson had another quality start for Baltimore on Tuesday but took the loss in a 3-2 defeat against the Angels at Angel Stadium. He allowed three runs on six hits over six innings, struck out nine and walked one.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Hellickson has given his rotation a much needed boost.

“He’s pitched really well,” Showalter said Saturday. “Obviously starting pitching’s been a challenge for a lot of teams that aren’t the Dodgers or whoever. It’s given us a guy that’s given us a chance to win twice. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. I’m sure Oakland will have something to say about that.”

Hellickson is 2-1 with a 3.44 ERA in six career starts against the A’s.

Graveman will make his third start since spending over two months on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder. He lasted a season-low two innings on Aug. 3 in an 11-2 loss to San Francisco, giving up seven runs on eight hits with one walk and no strikeouts.

Graveman made strides in his next start Tuesday against Seattle. He gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings with two strikeouts and one walk and got a no-decision in Oakland’s 7-6 loss.

“Usually in midseason or late in the season, you don’t have to worry about (mechanics), but with the injury, when you take time off, you got to build a foundation back up,” Graveman said. “That last one felt a lot more like myself. Got the good movement back. And now the next step is to kind of get the endurance … to be able to feel fresh in the sixth, seventh innings.”

Graveman is 1-2 with a 7.08 ERA in six appearances, including four starts, against Baltimore. Graveman pitched a gem in his last start vs. the Orioles on Aug. 8, 2016, at the Coliseum. He allowed one run on six hits with four strikeouts and no walks over seven innings in a 3-2 victory.

Graveman’s previous start against Baltimore, on May 8, 2016, at Camden Yards, was a nightmare. He gave up six runs on five hits, including four home runs, over 2 2/3 innings in an 11-3 loss.

“I remember both of the starts a little bit,” Graveman said. “I’m sure the difference was the movement on the pitches and being able to attack the strike zone. I do remember the one in Baltimore, especially. Just up in the zone that day.”