Thursday, May 9, 2019

Happ-y Night For Yankees As They Close Out Mariners

Two Yankees runs scoring late on a Gio Urshela hit. Photo by Jason Schott.

J.A. Happ had one of his [best starts of the season as the Yankees beat the Mariners 3-1 on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium to take three out of four games in their series.

Happ threw five innings, allowing just one hit and three walks, and striking out seven to earn his second win of the season, improving to 2-3 with a 4.36 ERA.

The Yankees bullpen was superb again as Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, and Zack Britton each threw scoreless innings, with each notching a strikeout, and Aroldis Chapman earned his eighth save of the season.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of Happ's performance and how he had his four-seam fastball working, "That was the best it's been. You know, my first look from the side, I thought he threw it by a lot of good right-handed hitters for that team who are good on the ball in, even, and it was playing all day long, even at the finish. He got into a little trouble just pitch-wise and walking a couple, guys, which drove his pitch count up, but four-seam-wise, I thought that was the best he's been."

The game began with Happ walking Dee Gordon, who then appeared to steal second. The Yankees challenged, and it was ruled that second baseman Thiaro Estrada got the tag down before Gordon's fingers touched the bag.

Happ then worked around a walk to Edwin Encarnacion and struck out Domingo Santana to get out of the inning.

In the bottom of the second, Yankees designated hitter Clint Frazier opened with a single, and then they caught a break when Seattle third baseman Ryon Healy snagged a hit from Gleyber Torres, but couldn't get the ball out of his glove, meaning both he and Frazier were safe.

It appeared they wouldn't capitalize when Miguel Andujar and Mike Tauchman each flew out, but Cameron Maybin laced a double to right field to score Frazier and make it 1-0 Yankees.

In the top of the third, with two out, Happ threw one up and in to Gordon, hitting him in the wrist, and he would leave the game. You will see later where this would hurt Seattle in this game.

Happ kept rolling, and he didn't allow a hit until there were two out in the fifth inning and Tom Murphy got a single to left field. He then got Braden Bishop to pop out to end the inning.

The top of the sixth opened with Happ walking Dylan Moore (who took over for Gordon), and that was then end of his night as he hit 94 pitches.

In came Adam Ottavino, who struck out his first batter, Mitch Haniger, but on the third strike, Moore stole second and took third on an errant throw from Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez.

Encarnacion then walked, and Santana hit one to Torres at shortstop, who fielded it, ran the few steps to the bag and fired to first base for the double play.

Kahnle retired the Mariners in order in the seventh and Britton the same in the eighth. 

The Mariners sent in Bruce to pinch-hit for Moore in the top of the eighth, and he made the final out of that inning. He stayed in the game to play first base, and they shifted Encarnacion from first base to Moore's position at second, where he never played before.

Wouldn't you know it, but the first batter in the bottom of the eighth, DJ LeMahieu lined one back up the middle and Encarnacion went for it and rolled over his wrist. He was tended to by the trainer and stayed in, but that needless move produced some tense moments.

Sanchez then followed with a hit, and after Brett Gardner hit into a force out, Frazier struck out. Torres was then eventually walked to load the bases and bring up Gio Urshela,who entered in the seventh inning to play third base for Andujar.

Urshela, who hit the big two-run homer to tie Tuesday night's game, which the Yankees eventually won, made Seattle pay again as he laced a double to right field to score two and make it 3-0 Yankees.

Gio Ursehla approaching first base on his hit. Photo by Jason Schott.

Boone said of what he was thinking when Seattle walked Torres to get to Urshela, "Feel comfortable with him coming to the plate, and obviously, you know, you put the on-base in play there, so either way they would have gone there, whether it's GT or Gio, you know, feel good about that shot with two outs there. Obviously, you don't always get it, but I know he's comfortable in that situation, obviously swinging the bat really well, so big two-out hit for us - two-strike hit, too."

Chapman came on in the ninth, and after he retired the first two, Santana launched a home run to right field to break the shutout and make it 3-1. Healy then grounded out to end it.

Boone said of the bullpen pitching to the form they envisioned, "Yeah, that was pretty good, and obviously, we had those guys pretty rested up going into this game, so obviously liked Otto (Ottavino) in that right-handed lane there (in the sixth inning), so he came in and got through that inning, made a big pitch obviously to get the double play ball. Tommy (Kahnle) was really efficient, Zack (Britton) was really good, and then, I thought Chappy (Chapman) threw the ball great. Even though he gave up the homer, I thought that was maybe about as good as he's been, too." 

The Yankees are now 22-15 heading into their three-game weekend series in Tampa Bay against the first place Rays (23-13).

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