J.A. Happ insists trade rumours involving him aren’t impacting his ability to deliver on the mound, but the results haven’t been pretty.
The Blue Jays’ top starter gave up a home run on the first pitch and didn’t make it out of the third inning as Toronto lost 8-5 to the New York Yankees on Saturday.
Happ went just 2 2/3 innings — his shortest outing since September 2016 — and allowed six earned runs on four hits while walking six and striking out five against a team rumoured to be interested in the left-hander.
Happ allowed seven runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings in a 9-1 loss against the Detroit Tigers last Sunday.
“I don’t think these last two are really indicative of how I’ve pitched the last several years, so you try to flip the script as best as you can and just move forward,” Happ said.
“Too many walks overall, thought I was making some good pitches. They hit two homers and it seems like right now every walk I give up comes around [to score] somehow or another.”
Happ staying focused
With the non-waiver trade deadline looming on July 31, Happ (10-5) said he’s not looking ahead.
“I’m just focused on playing for the Blue Jays right now,” he said. “There’s rumours out there, you never know what’s speculation, what’s true and what has any realistic chance — I’m just trying to play and pitch. I’m happy right here and we’ll see what happens.”
Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning as the Yankees (57-29) improved to 8-4 against the Blue Jays this season.
Toronto (41-47) has now dropped five of its last six against the Yankees and four of six overall. The series is tied at 1-1 heading into Sunday’s finale.
Happ knows what it’s like to be dealt in the middle of the season. In July 2015, the Seattle Mariners traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates. As a result, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons believes the 35-year-old is well-equipped to pitch through the distraction.
“Of all the guys, he’s probably the guy, I would think [could handle it],” Gibbons said before the game. “I don’t see any signs of it [bothering him]. He’s been through it before.
“They get settled in a certain area, they do their routine, I’m sure it’s a distraction, but you’d never know. If there’s one guy that could probably block that out, it’s probably him.”
Brandon Drury gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead, doubling on a ball mishandled by Kevin Pillar in centre field to score a pair in the first.
Pillar made up for his first-inning gaffe in the second, taking Luis Severino’s 0-1 slider over the wall in left for a two-run home run — his eighth of the season.
With Jake Petricka on in relief, Gardner tripled to right to score a pair. The Yankees went up 7-2 when Gardner scored on a passed ball.
Randal Grichuk trimmed the Yankees’ lead to 7-3 with a solo shot in the fourth for his 11th homer of the season.
Severino (14-2) allowed three earned runs on five hits over five innings while striking out five and walking two.
New York added to its lead in the ninth on an RBI single from Didi Gregorius.
Toronto’s Aledmys Diaz hit a solo home run in the ninth to cap the scoring.
Aledmys Diaz hit a solo home run in the ninth to cap the scoring.