By Annie Ross

Jeremy Hellickson has been the oasis in the Phillies’ desert of pitching woes.

Last night in Pittsburgh, he had allowed just two hits and two runs in six innings, thrown just 84 pitches and was cruising.

But then he tweaked his lower, left the game, ending his night an inning or two earlier than he wanted.

“That’s definitely the most frustrating part,” said Hellickson, who had a 1.80 ERA in five starts in April but carried a 7.90 ERA in his first three starts this month. “I finally was keeping fastballs down, commanding and throwing them where I wanted. Commanded both sides of the plate, so it was frustrating to come out when I could’ve gone a little longer. Frustrating that I had to come out with how good I felt, too.”

Hellickson said he has some lower back tightness. He is hopeful he will make his next start.

“We’ll know more tomorrow, but I feel fine,” Hellickson said. “I think I could’ve stayed in, but they didn’t want me to.”

But even six innings from Hellickson were welcome.

Phillies starters have pitched six or more innings just six times in a 4-15 stretch since April 27. The bullpen has become frustrated because they have been consistently pitching early in games. Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure and assistant pitching coach Rick Kranitz held a meeting with the team’s relievers before the game to discuss their frustrations.

“Basically try to get them to regroup and get them to understand that we’ve been using them a little sporadically because of the lack of innings that we’ve been given,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.

Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris pitched three scoreless innings to end Friday’s win.

“Every bullpen is going to be better with the more rest they get,” Hellickson said. “We haven’t given them the rest they need. As a starter, if you see a guy go six, seven, it’s contagious. We’ve just got to do that more than a couple times through to give those guys the break they need.”

Hellickson took pride in helping to make that happen.

“Absolutely,” he said.

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