Blue Jays-Phillies Preview
PHILADELPHIA -- J.A. Happ once aspired to be the ace of the Philadelphia Phillies' pitching staff. Aaron Nola now has the same goal.
The two pitchers square off Thursday, when Happ's Toronto Blue Jays face Nola's Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park.
The 33-year-old Happ, a third-round pick of the Phillies in 2004, was sent to Houston at the 2010 trade deadline as part of the deal that brought Philadelphia veteran right-hander Roy Oswalt. Happ (7-3, 3.70) is in his second tour of duty with the Blue Jays, one of five teams for which he has pitched in his 10-year career.
He is 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies, but this season has allowed 10 runs in 12 innings while splitting his last two starts. He earned an 11-6 victory over Baltimore his last time out, going seven innings and allowing four runs on eight hits, including three home runs. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter.
"I kept battling out there," Happ said, according to Major League Baseball's official web site. "I tried to get us through some innings. Against that lineup in this park with the wind blowing, you can't make mistakes. I made some mistakes and they hit it out, so I tried to keep going and tried to keep executing."
Edwin Encarnacion hit two homers in that game, including the go-ahead three-run blast in the sixth inning, and is 9-for-20 (.450) with five homers in his last five games. That includes a solo shot in Wednesday's 7-2 victory over Philadelphia, a game in which the full scope of the Jays' talents was on display.
Josh Donaldson also homered while making a pair of sparkling defensive plays at third base, and Ryan Goins and Devon Travis -- the Nos. 7 and 8 hitters in the Toronto lineup, respectively -- each had two hits and two RBIs.
Marco Estrada also pitched 6 2/3 strong innings to run his personal winning streak to four, as the Jays won for the second time in the first three games of a four-game home-and-home series with the Phillies.
Toronto also won for the 18th time in 26 games to improve to 37-31.
Nola, the Phillies' first-round pick in 2014, had the shortest outing of his two-year career his last time out, going 3 2/3 innings and giving up four runs on seven hits in an 8-0 loss at Washington.
"Nola just didn't look in sync," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said, according to MLB.com. "There was something about his rhythm that just didn't look right. He didn't make that many bad pitches, but he didn't look like he was in sync."
Nola (5-5, 2.98) agreed, saying he was "pretty wild with all (his) pitches," according to MLB.com, and adding that besides hanging too many curveballs he was unable to control his two-seam fastball.
Nola had gone at least six innings while allowing three runs or fewer in his previous nine starts. He also went five innings and allowed three runs on four hits in his lone career start against Toronto, a no-decision last season.
The Phillies expect third baseman Maikel Franco (sprained right knee) to return Thursday. He has not started the last three games, but struck out as a pinch hitter to end Wednesday's game and feels fine, according to Mackanin.