J.A. Happ is thriving with the Pirates

8 Comments

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.

Nationals to reinstate Max Scherzer on Thursday

Max Scherzer
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.

It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.

While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.

If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.