Three homers, including two by Lind, help lift Blue Jays starter to win
Special to MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- Blue Jays left hander J.A. Happ made a triumphant return to the Tropicana Field mound -- where more than three months ago he was felled by a line drive to the head -- riding two home runs by Adam Lind and one by Jose Bautista to a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.
"It was great; I was looking forward to coming back here," said Happ, who had never pitched particularly well at The Trop, even before his near-tragic accident. The win was his first since April 12, a span of seven starts that included two losses.
On May 7, Happ was hit on the left ear by a line drive off the bat of Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings. The 30-year-old left-hander sustained a fractured skull and contusions that required eight stitches as well as sprained ligaments in his left knee when he fell to the ground. Happ returned to the Blue Jays' starting rotation on Aug. 7.
"To me, that's over with," said Happ, who worked 5 1/3 innings Saturday, allowing the Rays two runs on five hits in his third start since coming back.
"I feel like I missed so much time. To me, it seemed like it took forever to get back."
"He's got a good fastball that he can get good hitters out with," manager John Gibbons said. "It's hard to find good lefties, and he's definitely one of those guys. You never know what you're going to get coming off an injury like that and all the time he was out."
Happ retired the Rays in order in each of the first three innings before Jason Bourgeois broke up the no-hitter by pushing a bunt single down the first-base line. Happ scrambled off the mound and scooped the ball to first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, sprawling on the ground in the process. At first, it appeared Happ might have reinjured the knee he hurt when he was felled by Jennings' line drive.
"We got a little nervous on that bunt, hoping it didn't happen again," Gibbons said. "He was a little off-balance. I think he just twisted his knee when he went down."
"I just kind of landed on the knee cap," Happ said. "I needed a couple of minutes to let it die down."
A fourth-inning single to center by Evan Longoria and an error by Anthony Gose on the play put Rays runners on second and third, setting the stage for Ben Zobrist's sacrifice fly and Yunel Escobar's RBI single, making the score 3-2.
Bautista blasted his 28th home run of the season deep into the left-field seats with two out in the first inning to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 advantage. Toronto added two more runs off Tampa Bay's Roberto Hernandez in the third. Rajai Davis legged out an infield single, stole his 36th base of the year and crossed the plate on Encarnacion's ground ball to third. And Bautista, who had been hit by a pitch, scored on Brett Lawrie's single after Lind was walked intentionally.
Lind led off the sixth with his 15th homer of the season, passing Ernie Whitt for eighth place on the Blue Jays' all-time home run list with 132. Lawrie, who is batting a league-leading .426 in August, followed with a double, stole third while Tampa Bay reliever Alex Torres was focused on the batter, Gose, then raced home to give the Blue Jays a 5-2 lead when Torres' belated, wild throw to third ended up in left field. "He [Lawrie] caught the guy sleeping out there," Gibbons said. "We got a break when he threw the ball away."
Lind homered again, leading off the eighth.
"I'm always trying to find my swing, no matter what time of the season it is," Lind said. "The season is so long. You just have to fight through the bad times and find a comfort zone. It's like everything else in life. When you feel comfortable, you have a better chance of success."