July 02, 2014

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Runs could be scarce when Toronto Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ and Oakland A's lefty Rich Hill square off in the finale of a three-game series Sunday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum.

Happ is 12-3 with a 3.36 ERA in 18 starts this season in his second stint with the Blue Jays. Hill is 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA in 16 starts in his first season with the A's.

Hill was initially scheduled to pitch Friday night against Toronto, but his start was pushed back two days because of two blisters on the middle finger of his left hand. Hill said a blister developed late in his final start before the All-Star break against Houston and that another one appeared after he had a long throwing session on flat ground three days later on July 10.

"It's fine now," Hill said Saturday. "There's no issues. It feels good. .... I think it was more of a precautionary thing than anything, to make sure it was 100 percent healed. And we had the time to do that."

Hill signed a one-year, $6 million contract as a free agent with the A's during the offseason. Now he's drawing considerable interest from teams throughout baseball as the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.

Staying focused on the task at hand has not been a problem, Hill said.

"I think just focusing in on your daily routine and sticking with what you do on a day-in and day-out basis, so it's not about anything else that's going on outside of what you can control," Hill said. "I've said that all year long."

Happ has been on a roll since being traded by Seattle to Pittsburgh on July 31 last season. He went 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts for the Pirates then stayed hot after re-signing with the Blue Jays, with whom he played for from 2012-2014.

"That was the plan, that was the goal definitely," Happ said of picking up where he left off in Pittsburgh. "I think just trying to be consistent. I always say that's the hardest thing in this game, but I do feel I'm in a better place mentally for sure. And with my mechanics I feel like I'm able to make adjustments. Just trying to stay there."

Happ has gone 6-0 in his past six starts with an ERA of 2.95, 41 strikeouts and eight walks. He earned his 12th win, matching his career single-season high, on July 8, blanking Detroit over 5 2/3 innings. Happ struck out nine and walked one.

Happ went 12-4 with Philadelphia in 2009 when he made 35 appearances, including 23 starts.

According to Happ, one of the reasons he's having such a good season is that he's not as tough on himself as he used to be.

"That's always been an issue of mine," Happ said. "That's probably part of the reason why I got here, but it's also sometimes a negative for me because I can be pretty tough and I can carry it over for a long time. I feel like I'm getting better about turning the page. I have a little better perspective about the game and everything. I think that's helped, some of the experiences I've had."

Happ will face an A's team that won the first two games of the series, hitting three home runs each time, and can complete a sweep with a victory Sunday. Happ has allowed 13 home runs over 112 1/3 innings this season.

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