J.A. Happ is on a roll. And when a good off-speed pitcher gets on a roll, he makes the game look very easy. Out after out. Easy groundball; easy flyout; some strikeouts; minimum pitches; 1-2-3 innings. Happ pitched 2-hit shutout ball into the 7th inning yesterday against the Red Sox at Fenway — a hitter’s park with a dastardly late-afternoon outfield sun — and turned over a 4-0 lead to the Yankee bullpen. Not sure of the probability of a team winning when the starting pitcher hurls shutout ball into the 7th with a 4-0 lead but it’s probably pretty high.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 8, 2019
Happ was on a roll down the stretch last year for the Yankees when they acquired him from Toronto, going 7-0 2.69 — but then got hit in the opening playoff game in the series against Boston at Fenway — allowing 5 runs on 4 hits in 2 innings in a game the Yanks came back to lose 5-4 — and many Yankee fans seemed to sour on him — there was not unanimous support for re-signing him over the winter.
And then this season he has been hit as hard as anyone — in a year when the ball is so lively it leaves the park if anyone puts an A swing on it — Happ’s off-speed pitches left over the plate have been target practice. Through the bad times Happ always gave good interview. And now in the good times that remains consistent.
Happ Credits His Mind for Recent Success
Happ said he hasn’t really changed much in his delivery or grip — he credited getting strike 1 as the big difference in his pitching recently, which has led to a positive mental attitude and confidence. “Just trying to get strike one and staying in my lanes a little bit on both sides of the plate has helped the effectiveness.” he said. “Getting strike 1 has been huge.”
Asked how he’s been getting strike 1, he said “It’s a tricky thing, I think for a long time I wanted it so badly I was trying to sort of feel for it a bit and it’s a fine line between being aggressive and feeling for strike 1; making a quality strike 1 pitch. You certainly can’t just flip it over the middle of the plate; I’m just trying to find that medium space where I feel like I’m being aggressive but executing.”
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) September 8, 2019
The Sun & the Offense
The sun and Edwin Encarnacion provided the offense. For the second straight day Boston threw an “opener” and their bullpen at the Yanks. This time, they picked a reliever having a bad day when they turned to Ryan Weber in the top of the 4th with the sun setting (the game had a 4 pm start time) to a point where it was glaring into the right fielder’s eyes — like it did in that playoff game against Boston in 1978 when Lou Piniella famously caught that ball in the 6th with 2 on and 2 out looking directly into the sun, and then reached out and kept that line single from going past him in the 9th saving the Yankees season. “I’ve thought many times,” Jerry Remy has said of that 9th inning play, “If that ball gets by him, I’m on third base and the score is tied and we probably win. I think about it every time I see it.”
J.D. Martinez, normally a 1st baseman, was in right for Boston. DJ LeMahieu led off with a single to left. Then Didi Gregorius stepped up and hit a liner to right — and Martinez tried to put a glove on it but it went right past him for a double. Gary Sanchez popped the ball up to the corner in right — catchable as Martinez and second baseman Brock Holt raced to it — Holt took charge but couldn’t get to it — it should have been an easy catch for Martinez but he begged off possibly because he didn’t see it or didn’t trust himself — the ball took one bounce in fair territory and then went into the stands for a ground rules double and 2 runs.
As usual Jomboy had a great breakdown:
J. D. Martinez touches a fans boobs, a breakdown pic.twitter.com/mVT4p4VicN
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) September 8, 2019
Then Edwin Encarnacion stepped up against Colten Brewer and hit a MONSTER shot over the Green Monster in left. “It may not have been because of the sun but I’m sure he couldn’t see where Encarnacion’s ball landed either,” said Timothy Claro.
Nobody even moved. pic.twitter.com/puL0brasNn
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 7, 2019
And that was ballgame. The Yankee bullpen came in mainly shut the door — Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, and Zack Britton pitched shutout ball and Aroldis Chapman allowed a solo homer to J.D. Martinez with 2 out in the 9th.
Encarnacion hit a double off the wall in the top of the 9th, plating Gary Sanchez for an insurance 5th run for the Yanks.