While the move largely went ignored amid perhaps the craziest trade deadline ever, the Pirates’ acquisition of J.A. Happ continues to pay off big.
Happ struck out eight batters and allowed just three hits and no walks over seven scoreless innings last night in a 4-1 victory over the first-place Cardinals. The southpaw gave up four runs over 4 1/3 innings in his first start with Pittsburgh on August 4 before getting an extended break. He has posted a 0.60 ERA in five starts since and hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in any of them. His secondary numbers back up his success, as he has a 26/5 K/BB ratio in 30 innings during that span.
Happ actually got off to a strong start this year with the Mariners before hitting a rough patch. According to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the southpaw said that the focus has been on getting him back to what made him successful in the past.
“I felt like as we broke this year I felt real good about kind of where I was at overall,” Happ said. “Over time things change slowly. You maybe form a bad habit or two. So it’s just trying to get back to that kind of pitcher.”
Returning to the National League for a team in a playoff race has surely helped matters, but we could be looking at the next major success story for Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage.
Cubs 2, Indians 1: Jon Lester was close to a complete game shutout but Carlos Santana had different ideas when he hit an RBI double in the ninth. No worries, though, because the Cubs are covered in pixie dust this year and Kris Bryant used it to hit a walkoff homer to give the Cubs their 20th win in their last 24 games. The Cubs would lead four of the six divisions in baseball this year. They’re in third place in the NL Central.
Yankees 1, Astros 0: Another walkoff, though a tad lest dramatic given that it was a sac fly. Not that this wasn’t an exciting game given that you had two pitchers — Nate Eovaldi and Scott Feldman — tossing eight shutout innings against each other. This could easily be an ALDS matchup. If so, and something like this happened in October, such a game would be an instant classic.
Mets 16, Phillies 7: Welcome back David Wright! Wright homered in his return from over four months on the disabled list. Not that he was alone here: Mets batters had 15 extra-base hits including eight home runs. Lost in this is Jacob deGrom giving up seven runs on eight hits and failing to escape the third inning, but I feel like that’s OK on a night like this.
Braves 5, Rockies 3: Yesterday, after I wrote that thing about team chemistry, I made some jokes on Twitter about how if chemistry matters so much why isn’t Team Leader and Super Chemistry Guy Jonny Gomes leading the Braves to victory after victory. Overall he isn’t, of course, but in this one he did, driving in three including a three-run homer. The Braves snap a seven-game losing streak. Maybe Gomes was the spark for that here, but I suppose playing the team that now has the worst record in baseball will do that for you too.
Reds 12, Tigers 5: This was a makeup game from an earlier rainout. The Tigers probably wish it had rained again. At least heading into the bottom of the sixth. At that time they had a 5-0 lead and things were just dandy. That’s when Buck Farmer ran out of gas and allowed three runs and was followed up by a bullpen which allowed seven more before the inning was over. Brandon Phillips drove in four runs with a home run and a triple in that inning as the Reds snap their nine-game losing streak. Joey Votto hit a two-run homer in the eighth to cap things off, but I assume his many critics in Cincinnati will say that was just garbage time, stat-padding work, not actually good baseball.
Pirates 5, Marlins 2: A couple of plunkings and a high inside from Marlins relievers which seemed more a function of incompetence than intent, though it did lead to one ejection. Both the plunkees ended up scoring too. Meanwhile J.A. Happ threw six scoreless innings as one of the best teams in baseball beat one of the worst.
Red Sox 5, White Sox 4: Sox win. Rusney Castillo was 3-for-4, homered and drove in all five of the Red Sox’ runs.
Royals 8, Orioles 3: Kris Medlen made his first start in almost two years and got the win, thanks to the Royals putting up a seven-spot after he left the game but while he was still the pitcher of record. Omar Infante tripled in two runs in that inning and scored on the same play thanks to a throwing error. The day before he was out trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park homer. In one day he has learned jiu-jitsu and the art of making your opponent beat himself.
Cardinals 5, Diamondbacks 3: Lance Lynn pitched in trouble all night but his defense bailed him out with four double plays, including one with Paul Goldschmidt at the plate with one out and the bases loaded. Overall Arizona stranded 11 runners.
Athletics 11, Mariners 5: Another club with a big inning, this time the A’s with a seven-run fifth. Oakland was down 5-0 at the time but a Danny Valencia homer and two Stephen Vogt doubles helped them claw back.
And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights
Orioles 5, Mets 4: Henry Urrutia with the walkoff bomb to cap a night in which the O’s rallied from 3-1 and 4-3 deficits. It was Urrutia’s first big league homer. A Mets fan caught it and gave it back to him, after which Urrutia said “That’s the best gift for me tonight. Now I can give that baseball to my son.” If this was a bad 1980s action movie the terrorist with whom Urrutia served in special forces back in the day would now kidnap the son, causing Urrutia to go on a rampage after him. In the final battle, Urrutia and the terrorist would exchange some one-liners, the terrorist would say something like “we’re not so different, you and I” and then Urrutia would kill the terrorist with the actual baseball from that homer, and the credits would roll as he hugged his son. Man, they don’t make good movies anymore.
Rangers 7, Mariners 2: Derek Holland came back from four months on the disabled list and allowed two runs while pitching into the seventh inning. Mitch Moreland, Mike Napoli and Elvis Andrus all went deep as the Rangers keep pace with the Angels and Astros in the west and the Angels and Orioles in the wild card race. Still not quite believing the Rangers are in the thick of things, but they are.
Brewers 8, Marlins 7: Remember when I said a week ago or so that the only time I notice Khris Davis is when he hits two homers in a game? It happened again. A two-run shot and a three-run shot for a man with the most specific and odd super power of all the comic book heroes. Not as useless as Aquaman or anything, but still very esoteric as far as these things go.
After the low-budget A’s won 5-4 in 10 innings Tuesday night, they beat baseball’s biggest spender again to win consecutive games following a seven-game skid on a recent road trip through Toronto and Baltimore.
Fun fact: there is basically no correlation between payroll and playoff contention this year, with just as many low budget teams in playoff position as high budget and just as many big spenders near the bottom of league standings as poor sisters. It’s always fun for baseball writers to talk about payrolls, but it’s fair to say that the A’s disappointing season is just as much a function of their bad decisions as their payroll this year. As such, it’d be just as insightful to say the “green-wearing team beat the blue-wearing team” in the above passage.
Padres 3, Braves 2: The Padres complete the three-game sweep of the Braves, for whom San Diego has become a personal hell in recent years. But at least the opposition beating up on my boys looked sharp as hell yesterday:
Phillies 7, Blue Jays 4: Aaron Altherr, which sounds like a name some underaged kid makes up on the spot when questioned by campus security about where he got that beer, homered, doubled and drove in three runs. The real story here, however, is that this was the first Phillies game in nearly a decade and a half in which Chase Utley was not a member of the team. Which is causing some feelings among Phillies fans, you should know:
Pirates 4, Diamondbacks 1: J.A. Happ pitched six shutout innings. Not gonna say there was a lot going on at the trade deadline, but I completely missed that Happ was traded to the Pirates. Hi, I’m Craig Calcaterra, baseball news man.
Red Sox 6, Indians 4: David Ortiz, Travis Shaw, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Ryan Hanigan all homered. It was Dave Dombrowski’s first game as team president following his, I dunno, inauguration, or whatever it was that happened yesterday. As Bradley hit that homer, I assume he was fondly remembering all of the times he flipped peaking outfielders for way better value in trades when he ran the Tigers. I almost feel bad for Dave Stewart, because the odds of him getting fleeced out of a great player when Dombrowski calls him this winter have been taken off the Vegas boards.
Royals 4, Reds 3: Ben Zobrist had four hits. And, for the first time in my baseball-watching life, some dude tried to score from third after the infield fly rule was called. Jason Bourgeois of the Reds, specifically. He was tagged out. What in the heck? Bourgeois was also picked off first base early in the game. Not the best day on the basepaths for him.
Cardinals 4, Giants 3: Yadier Molina hit his 100th career homer to put the Cards over the Giants. He also had an RBI single in the game. I suppose this will cause Cards fans to renew that whole “Molina is better than Posey” argument that always makes me smile. Posey has 99 homers in his career, for what it’s worth. In five fewer seasons.
Tigers 15, Cubs 8: Tigers starter Daniel Norris homered but he also suffered an oblique injury, so a decidedly mixed bag for him last night. A worse bag for Jon Lester, who got pounded by Tigers hitters to the tune of three homers and seven runs in two and two-thirds innings. Nick Castellanos homered twice and drove in five.
Astros 3, Rays 2: Carlos Correa homered and hit a walkoff single in the 13th inning. It’s so cool to watch a star being born. Two straight walkoffs in extra innings for the Astros over the Rays. An .895 OPS and a 20-homer pace for Correa, who will end the season playing in around half of his team’s games. This kid is going to be incredible.
Nationals 4, Rockies 1: As I’ve been watching Nationals fans melt down over the past few weeks, two of their favorite targets have been Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Werth. Here Strasburg pitched seven strong innings and Werth hit a tiebreaking triple in the eighth, so I guess they get a day off of abuse.
Angels 1, White Sox 0: A sixth inning homer from Carlos Perez was all that happened with the bats here. Jered Weaver pitched shutout ball into the seventh. That homer was all that Jeff Samardzija let happen. In light of that, how this game went nearly three hours is a mystery to me, but I guess not everyone is Mark Buehrle.
Blue Jays shut down outfielder Michael Saunders for season
Toronto stopped counting on Michael Saunders a while ago, but now the Blue Jays have officially shut down the injured outfielder for the remainder of the season.
Saunders was acquired from the Mariners for left-hander J.A. Happ in December and the Blue Jays expected him to be a regular, but he ended up playing just nine games due to a knee injury suffered during spring training.
Toronto isn’t exactly hurting for offensive help, but Saunders’ left-handed bat (and .743 OPS from 2012-2014) would have complemented an otherwise right-handed-heavy lineup.
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pirates have placed starter A.J. Burnett on the 15-day disabled list due to inflammation in his right elbow. The club has recalled pitcher Bobby LaFromboise from Triple-A Indiapolis to take Burnett’s spot on the roster.
Burnett, 38, has struggled over his last three starts, allowing 18 earned runs in 16 innings. As a result, his ERA has ballooned from 2.11 to 3.06. The Pirates acquired pitcher J.A. Happ in a trade with the Mariners just ahead of the 4 PM EST trade deadline, so he will take Burnett’s spot in the rotation.
In an unrelated move, the Pirates designated pitcher Deolis Guerra to make room for reliever Joakim Soria — acquired in a trade with the Tigers on Thursday — on the roster.