Happ wins 11th straight, improves to 17-3 as Jays top Yanks
NEW YORK (AP) Before this season, J.A. Happ had a career record of 62-61 with a 4.13 ERA. This year, he's putting up Cy Young Award numbers.
Happ won his career-best 11th consecutive decision to become the first 17-game winner in the majors, pitching the Toronto Blue Jays past the New York Yankees 7-4 on Wednesday.
''He's just turned into a better pitcher. He's more of a command guy,'' Toronto manager John Gibbons said. ''He's got a great feel. He's doing a tremendous job.''
Melvin Upton Jr. hit a three-run homer and Darwin Barney had an early two-run double for the first-place Blue Jays, who hold a slim lead over Baltimore and Boston in the AL East. Russell Martin added three hits, including an RBI single off CC Sabathia, as the Blue Jays took two of three in the series, delighting a vocal contingent of Toronto fans at Yankee Stadium.
Happ (17-3) pitched into the eighth inning and extended the longest active winning streak in the majors. He struck out nine, walked one and yielded solo homers to Gary Sanchez, Starlin Castro and Chase Headley.
''If you can try to limit them to solos, you give yourself a chance. That's kind of what happened today,'' Happ said.
Signed as a free agent in the offseason to a $36 million, three-year contract, Happ has won five straight starts. The 33-year-old lefty, who hasn't lost since June 6 at Detroit, is 3-0 in four outings against the Yankees this year.
''He's dominant,'' teammate Josh Donaldson said. ''He's just been doing his thing, day in and day out. He's just been great.''
Happ hides the ball well and has a sneaky fastball that he moves all around and can elevate to get strikeouts. His big season is a continuation of his success down the stretch last year, when he went 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts after getting traded from Seattle to Pittsburgh.
''He's a pleasure, man. He's an absolute pro. As consistent as you can get,'' said Martin, the Blue Jays' catcher. ''He's got good stuff and he's aggressive, doesn't walk many guys. When they get runs, they have to earn them.''
Happ was lifted after Headley's infield single with one out in the eighth. Joaquin Benoit gave up an RBI single to rookie Aaron Judge that made it 7-4, but Roberto Osuna struck out Didi Gregorius on a 97 mph fastball with two on to end the inning.
Osuna got four straight outs for his 27th save in 29 attempts.
Martin hit an RBI single in the fifth that put Toronto ahead 4-2 before Upton broke it open with an opposite-field drive to right, the latest right-handed Toronto hitter to take advantage of the short porch at Yankee Stadium over the past two days.
It was Upton's first home run for the Blue Jays since they obtained him from San Diego in a trade July 26. He began the day batting .190 with two RBIs in 58 at-bats for Toronto.
''Been waiting for it, and it finally happened. Obviously, it feels good,'' Upton said. ''Just trying to get going and help this team.''
Sabathia (7-10) lasted six innings in a bizarre outing. The big lefty struck out seven of the first 13 batters and finished with 12 strikeouts, his most in four years. But he was charged with a season-high seven runs and nine hits while losing his fifth straight start against Toronto.
''There's no reason we should've given up more than four today. We had a tough day defensively that cost us,'' New York manager Joe Girardi said.
Sabathia became the first pitcher in Yankees history to strike out at least 12 and allow seven earned runs.
''Yeah, it's crazy. But I'll be back out there in five days and be ready to go,'' he said.
DONALDSON DAY TO DAY
Donaldson, last year's AL MVP, was removed after six innings. The team said he jammed his right thumb in his final at-bat, a groundout to second.
''He couldn't hold the bat,'' Gibbons said.
X-rays were negative and the slugger is day to day, according to Gibbons, who said Donaldson had a similar injury earlier this season and it didn't last long.
Donaldson said he hopes to play Friday in Cleveland.
''It's obviously not the first time it's happened this year, but it got me pretty good and I didn't want to do any further damage,'' he said.
Donaldson was the DH, with Barney playing third base.
Blue Jays: After going through a full pregame workout with the club Friday in Cleveland, there's a good chance CF Kevin Pillar (sprained left thumb) will head to Florida this weekend to play a couple of minor league rehab games, Gibbons said. The team hopes Pillar will be ready to come off the 15-day DL next Tuesday against the Angels. ... RF Jose Bautista (sprained left knee) is feeling better and there's an ''outside shot'' he'll be ready to come off the DL after his 15 days are up on Aug. 25, Gibbons said.
Yankees: LF Brett Gardner (ankle) was back in the lineup after missing four games. Gardner batted leadoff as Girardi rested CF Jacoby Ellsbury, C-DH Brian McCann and 1B Mark Teixeira against Happ.
Blue Jays: Following an off day, Toronto begins a three-game series Friday night in Cleveland. LHP Francisco Liriano faces Indians RHP Trevor Bauer (9-5, 3.97 ERA). Liriano is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts for the Blue Jays since they acquired him from Pittsburgh at the Aug. 1 trade deadline. He is 6-12 with a 5.46 ERA overall.
Yankees: New York plays 12 of its next 15 games on the road, starting with a six-game West Coast swing. After an off day, RHP Masahiro Tanaka (9-4, 3.40 ERA) pitches Friday night at the Los Angeles Angels against RHP Jered Weaver (8-10, 5.32).