The Cubs might be the latest team in the mix for Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ, according to a report from Bob Elliott of the Canadian Baseball Network. No further details have been revealed so far, but it isn’t surprising to see Happ connected to yet another team looking to bolster their rotation as the second half of the 2018 season draws near.
Happ, 35, has been a stable presence in the Jays’ rotation over the last three seasons. He’s 10-5 through his first 18 starts of 2018 and holds a 4.44 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 across 105 1/3 innings. The veteran lefty is slated to receive the remainder of his $13 million salary in 2018 and will enter the free agent pool at the end of the year.
There’s no question the Cubs’ pitching staff could use a boost as they look toward the playoffs later this year. According to FanGraphs, their rotation ranks seventh-worst among all major league teams with a collective 3.92 ERA and 2.7 fWAR. It doesn’t help, of course, that Yu Darvish is out of commission for the foreseeable future and that Jon Lester and Mike Montgomery are the only starters currently sporting ERAs under 4.00. Whether or not the Cubs have something of interest to offer the Blue Jays is another question entirely; as of Sunday, at least three other teams have allegedly expressed interest in the southpaw, including the Yankees, Mariners, and Brewers.
The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.
Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.
Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.
James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.
The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.