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.
Pirates starter A.J. Burnett threw a simulated game on Friday, and will throw a bullpen session on Sunday, MLB.com’s Tom Singer reports. The right-hander said, “I expect to be throwing soon for the Pirates, because I feel great.”
Burnett hasn’t pitched since late July due to inflammation in his right elbow. There was some concern that the 38-year-old veteran might have thrown his last pitch in the majors, as he plans to retire after the season. However, it sounds as if a mid-September return is in the cards, which would give him three or four starts.
Burnett currently holds a 3.06 ERA with a 114/36 K/BB ratio over 135 1/3 innings.
This probably isn’t what Pirates fans want to hear with a big weekend series against the first-place Cardinals coming up, but Andrew McCutchen is out of tonight’s lineup with what he describes as a “tight Achilles.”
McCutchen dealt with a left knee injury earlier this year, but he made sure to point out that it isn’t an issue right now. According to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the All-Star center fielder said that he’s just “been a little sore” and “hobbling around a little bit.” Barring something unexpected, it sounds like he will play in the series opener in St. Louis:
McCutchen was just named the National League Player of the Month after hitting .348 with a 1.079 OPS in August. The 28-year-old is batting .303/.404/.517 with 20 home runs, 85 RBI, and seven steals over 128 games on the year.