Happ, Bullpen Grind Out Another Yankees Win over Boston
By Patrick Gunn
J.A. Happ looked like a different man on the mound against the Red Sox. The 37-year old lefty may have turned around his season in the Yankees’ 4-2 win over the Red Sox, their sixth consecutive win over Boston this season. Happ, along with the Yankees’ bullpen trio of Zack Britton, Chad Green, and Adam Ottavino, held the BoSox to just five hits.
Happ pitched into the sixth inning for the first time this season while only allowing one run in the process. To put that into perspective, Happ only threw seven innings in his first two starts. He had more walks allowed (eight) than innings pitched in those two starts, not to mention the fact that he allowed three home runs.
This time around, Happ kept the Red Sox off the bases and in the ballpark. Well, mostly, he did give up a solo home run to outfielder Kevin Pillar, but that was the only damage he allowed. Along the way, he only gave up two walks and three hits, including the Pillar home run.
So, what changed? For Happ, it all starts with the fastball. He located his bread and butter pitch well up and down in the zone all night, getting ahead in the count (Happ threw first-pitch strikes to 70% of all batters he faced) and setting up his secondary pitches. Also, he threw the fastball up in the zone effectively, turning the usual home runs and hard hits into groundouts (Happ induced six groundouts against the Red Sox).
Happ benefited from a long break in-between starts to find a rhythm (he last pitched on August 5th against the Phillies). While one good start does not change a season, Happ made important strides today to showcase why he can still be a valuable part of the Yankees’ rotation.
BULLPEN: GOOD ENOUGH
The Yankees’ back-end of the bullpen pitched alright tonight. Given their high usage this season (Ottavino has pitched in 11 games this season; Green and Britton have both pitched in nine), they understandable are not going to be 100% sharp every night.
With that said, it is fitting that on the night before Aroldis Chapman is expected to return, per Bryan Hoch, the Yankees’ top relievers got the job done once again. The trio only allowed one run in 3.1 innings, and that runner only scored on a Zack Britton error.
How were they less sharp than usual? Well, Ottavino and Green both walked a batter, Britton allowed a wild pitch (and Gary Sanchez had a passed ball on another zig-zagging pitch), and the bullpen as a whole allowed four base runners.
Most importantly, the triad kept the Red Sox off the scoreboard again, while striking out five batters in the process. The Yankees bullpen has stayed afloat without Chapman and Tommy Kahnle (Tommy John) so far this season, and this game was another example of the Yankees’ killer unit.
LINEUP: WHO NEEDS STARS?
Mike Ford provided the Yankees with a jolt tonight. He put the Yankees on the scoreboard with a two-out, run-scoring single in the first inning. Then, in the fourth, he gave the Bombers all the insurance they needed with this bomb to right-center.
This Is Fordy. pic.twitter.com/H7rop00gRM — New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 17, 2020
Four runs are not a lot, especially against the Red Sox’ weak pitching staff, but the Yankees put up enough runs in support of a solid pitching performance. For a lineup missing its top-three hitters (Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and DJ LeMahieu), the Bombers can still score with the best of them.
ONE BIG HOP:
Aaron Hicks drove in the Yankees’ second run with this perfectly placed ground ball.
A-Aron off the bag 😮 pic.twitter.com/d8OJauftTe — New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 16, 2020
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
HAPPY 100 TO THE NEGRO LEAGUES:
MLB honored the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Negro Leagues yesterday. You can learn more about the League’s history on the Negro League Museum’s website.
The Yankees have one more home game against the Red Sox tomorrow night, with Jordan Montgomery facing off against Martin Perez.