Cubs’ infield/outfield prospect Ian Happ made the most of his major league debut on Saturday. The 22-year-old went 1-for-3 with a walk and a two-run blast off of the Cardinals’ Carlos Martinez, airmailing a first-pitch changeup over the right field bullpen in the seventh inning of the Cubs’ 5-3 loss.
Happ was called up from Triple-A Iowa on Friday night, though the club waited to make the move official by optioning right-hander Felix Pena to Triple-A on Saturday. His promotion could be short-lived, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon told reporters, as the outfielder is currently needed to fill in the gaps left by injured infielder/outfielders Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Jon Jay. Still, Happ capitalized on the opportunity and looked every bit as major league-ready as the club had hoped during his first taste of big league action.
While his seventh-inning home run was the highlight of the afternoon, Happ’s first major league hit nearly came in the fifth inning on a ground ball up the first base line. Instead, Cardinals’ first baseman Matt Carpenter was charged with a fielding error after trying and failing to snare the ball. Things only got worse during Anthony Rizzo‘s at-bat, when Happ was thrown out at second base after sliding to break up a double play.
With the loss, the Cubs are still locked into third place in the NL Central and now sit at .500.
The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1 during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, staving off a potential postseason elimination and forcing the series to at least six games.
In just the third playoff appearance of his career, Yankees southpaw James Paxton turned in another impressive performance, limiting the Astros to four hits and four walks over six innings of one-run ball. According to MLB Stats, his nine strikeouts made him the second Yankees lefty to record multiple starts of 8+ strikeouts in the same postseason campaign, two decades after David Wells did so for the 1998 championship-winning club.
Paxton’s strong outing was backed by a handful of runs from DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, both of whom went deep against Astros ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning. LeMahieu’s leadoff solo shot marked his first postseason home run since Game 1 of the ALDS, while Hicks’ three-run 347-footer was his first home run of any variety since July 24 (and his first in the playoffs since the 2017 ALDS).
Neither team managed a single run after the first inning, leaving the two pitching staffs to duke it out for eight quick innings. Verlander outlasted Paxton — taking the game through the seventh with five hits, four runs, and nine strikeouts — but even with a flawless contribution from Brad Peacock in the eighth, there was little the hurlers could do to help the Astros solve Paxton and an airtight Yankees bullpen.
With the win, the Yankees will try to push the series to a full seven games in order to snatch the AL pennant from the Astros. They’ll have to do in Houston, however, as the Astros will regain home field advantage when Game 6 kicks off on Saturday at 8:08 PM EDT. Neither starter has been announced yet; per Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, it will likely be a bullpen day.