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Happ finds form to win first game of season

Blue Jays lefty throws six scoreless frames, striking out eight
MLB.com

SEATTLE -- After a season when almost everything went right, J.A. Happ's second year with the Blue Jays began unexpectedly.

Happ lost his first three starts. He landed on the 10-day DL with left elbow discomfort in mid-April. And after returning, the veteran left-hander was slow in two outings to regain the form that won him 20 games and helped the Blue Jays reach the American League Championship Series.

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SEATTLE -- After a season when almost everything went right, J.A. Happ's second year with the Blue Jays began unexpectedly.

Happ lost his first three starts. He landed on the 10-day DL with left elbow discomfort in mid-April. And after returning, the veteran left-hander was slow in two outings to regain the form that won him 20 games and helped the Blue Jays reach the American League Championship Series.

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But that changed Sunday when Happ spun six scoreless frames in Toronto's 4-0 win over the Mariners at Safeco Field. Happ wasn't flawless against his former team, allowing six hits and a walk, but he struck out eight and worked out of trouble every time the Mariners' potent lineup threatened.

"He looked like the old guy," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Really jumping fastball. Much better command. He didn't use a whole lot of other things, but he normally doesn't, anyway. I think that was a step in the right direction and answered a lot of questions for me."

The performance helped Happ (1-4, 4.31 ERA) pick up his first win of the season and improve to 4-1 in five starts all-time against Seattle, where he spent a chunk of the 2015 season before being traded to the Pirates at the MLB non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"It's strange just sitting in the dugout," he said. "Just sitting in the dugout, the crowd's always cheering, whether it's one team or the other team. It's kind of split. … it's fun coming here."

Happ escaped jams in each of the first four innings, as the Mariners left seven runners stranded. But he worked 1-2-3 innings in the fifth and the sixth, and the Blue Jays cycled through six relievers over the next three innings, with closer Roberto Osuna earning the final out to pick up his 16th save.

Video: TOR@SEA: Osuna retires Haniger to secure the save

"It's always a bonus for our starting pitchers to go deep in the game and have the success that J.A. had today," Josh Donaldson said after going 3-for-5, including a two-run homer in the first inning off Mariners starter James Paxton. "I know for sure it makes Gibbons' job easier over the last couple innings."

The Jays have four shutouts this season and are 13-6 over their past 19 games. Starters Joe Biagini, Marcus Stroman and Happ all went at least six innings over the weekend, when Toronto took two of three from Seattle in front of a heavily Canadian crowd.

"Everything revolves around pitching in this game," Gibbons said. "If you're going to win in anything, you got to pitch. And our bullpen's been really good, but it takes a toll on those guys when the starters can't go a certain distance … they seem to all be kicking it in gear now. That was big for Happ today."

Adam Lewis is a contributor to MLB.com based in Seattle. He covered the Blue Jays on Sunday.

Toronto Blue Jays, J.A. Happ