Happ shines as Jays avoid sweep against M’s

J.A. Happ came close to unravelling early in Toronto’s 2-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.

A key strikeout of Nelson Cruz in the fourth inning turned things around, and the Blue Jays left-hander went on to earn his seventh straight win.

Happ began the fourth with a walk and a hit batsman before falling behind 2-0 to Cruz, who had racked up seven RBIs on a grand slam and three-run homer the previous day.

Two straight four-seam fastballs evened the count 2-2, another four-seamer got Cruz swinging on 3-2 count, and Happ followed that with a second strikeout and pop up to end the inning.

“That’s kind of my best pitch so I tried to use that and get ahead with that,” Happ said of the pivotal at-bat. “When you’re not hitting on your other stuff you have to rely on that. … I was just trying to really locate there and mix it up with the change-up and I think that helped.”

Happ (13-3) notched a career-high in wins while walking four and striking out six through six innings of one-hit ball as the Blue Jays avoided a three-game sweep.

He started the game with a 12-pitch first inning but started to show some trouble with command over the next three, walking the lead-off batter in each of the second, third and fourth innings before hitting Robinson Cano to set up the crucial Cruz at-bat.

“A couple big strikeouts and I think that set the tone, especially for him,” said Josh Thole, who started his third straight game behind the plate in place of an injured¬†Russell Martin. “I know his pitch count got up a little but that was the inning that got him right where he needed to be.”

Edwin Encarnacion hit his 224th home run in a Blue Jays uniform in the fourth inning to pass Vernon Wells for third place on the franchise’s all-time list and Thole scored the other run for Toronto (55-44) on a double play in the sixth.

Brett Cecil worked around a one-out walk for a scoreless seventh, Jason Grilli pitched a perfect eighth, and Roberto Osuna earned his 20th save with a clean ninth.

The dominant pitching performance was needed following a 14-5 loss to Seattle on Saturday that saw the bullpen surrender eight runs.

“It makes it easy on me,” Thole said. “We were in a really good rhythm the whole game. Up and down, the guys came in with a game plan ready to go and it was a big win, especially after yesterday.”

“You look at what happened yesterday, that’s the beauty of baseball,” added manager John Gibbons. “You can turn around and throw a one-hit shutout.”

Wade Miley (6-8) allowed two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out four through six innings to shoulder the loss for the Mariners (50-48), who had won the first two games of the three-game weekend series at Rogers Centre.

“I felt like I wasn’t quite as sharp as in my last outing but I was able to make some pitches and get out of most of the jams,” Miley said.

Thole led off the sixth inning with a double and advanced to third on a fielder’s choice, sliding under the tag of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager. Seattle challenged the umpire’s safe call and it was upheld after a one minute 24 second review.

Thole later scored from third to give Toronto a 2-0 lead when Josh Donaldson hit into a double play.

Darwin Barney made a nice defensive play at third base in the eighth, diving and snagging a line drive to rob Norichika Aoki of a double.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Gibbons said of Barney. “That diving catch can go unnoticed but who knows what happens after that? The guy gets a double and who knows.”

NOTES: Attendance was 47,488. … Encarnacion has 27 home runs and leads the majors with 87 RBIs. … Carlos Delgado tops the Blue Jays home run leaderboard with 336, Jose Bautista is second at 255. … Toronto designated reliever Drew Storen for assignment before the game and recalled reliever Ryan Tepera. … The Blue Jays continue their nine-game home stand with a three-game interleague series against San Diego starting Monday night. … Bautista is expected to join the team for Monday’s game. He’s been on the disabled list with turf toe since June 17.

The Canadian Press via TSN | Photo:  assets1.sportsnet.ca

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Christina Vixx

Christina Vixx

I was born and raised in Toronto Canada. I love writing, poetry and music. I'm a contributor for SocialMediaMorning. Make sure you follow me on Twitter and Facebook!
Christina Vixx

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Christina Vixx

I was born and raised in Toronto Canada. I love writing, poetry and music. I'm a contributor for SocialMediaMorning. Make sure you follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

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