TORONTO -- The Yankees have been locked on each of J.A. Happ's recent starts, believing that he can help in their quest to beat out the Red Sox in the American League East. Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge may have ensured that the veteran lefty flunked an audition to try
TORONTO -- The Yankees have been locked on each of J.A. Happ's recent starts, believing that he can help in their quest to beat out the Red Sox in the American League East. Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge may have ensured that the veteran lefty flunked an audition to try on the pinstripes.
Gardner and Judge opened the game with back-to-back homers off Happ, who recorded just eight outs before being dispatched to the showers. Luis Severino embraced that early cushion to secure his Major League-leading 14th victory, helping the Yankees to an 8-5 victory over the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
"You feed off that. It brings good energy," Judge said. "You've got your game plan set up for the starting pitcher. To see your leadoff hitter go out there and get that first one on the board, it pumps everybody up and says, 'Hey, let's go out there and attack this guy.' That's what we were able to do."
The home runs from Gardner and Judge, plus Brandon Drury's two-run double, filled Severino's pockets with four runs before he set foot upon the mound. While Severino wasn't razor sharp, requiring 97 pitches to complete five innings of three-run ball, it was good enough for the right-hander to equal his career-high win total from a year ago.
"I didn't have my slider today. I didn't throw that many changeups today," Severino said. "I just feel like sometimes I don't want to throw it. Every time your team scores that many runs, that helped me a lot. I didn't have my best stuff today, but it was a great team win."
The 35-year-old Happ has been widely mentioned as a possible Yankees target in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, with general manager Brian Cashman broadcasting his desire to upgrade the rotation. Toronto is thought to be amenable to trading Happ within the division, considering he is eligible for free agency.
The Brewers and Mariners are among the other teams connected to Happ, who was charged with six runs after Gardner greeted Jake Petricka with a two-run triple in the third, then scored on a passed ball. Happ said that his focus remains on pitching for the Blue Jays, though he did say that the trade talk may have affected him subconsciously.
"I'm trying to compete," Happ said. "I'm trying to win and it hurts me as I'm standing here talking to you, the results today. It doesn't matter that it's the Yankees, or whoever it is. I expect better and I think better will happen. I think I'm known for better."
Kevin Pillar hit a two-run homer in the second inning and Randal Grichuk teed off for a solo blast in the fourth, accounting for the damage off Severino, who permitted five hits while walking two and striking out five. Severino's next start is scheduled for Thursday at Cleveland, which would put him on regular rest for a starting nod in the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.
"Right now, like I always say, I'm just going to focus on my next start against the Cleveland Indians," Severino said. "If they decide to put me there, I will be happy to start. There's a bunch of good starters that deserve that. I'll be focused on my next start."
"I'd love to see him start [the All-Star Game] and go one inning," manager Aaron Boone said. "I certainly think he's as deserving as anyone. Look, there's a handful of great pitchers in this league that can make a claim to get that honor. Sevy is probably at the top of that list."
Pillar drew the Blue Jays within three runs with a sacrifice fly off Jonathan Holder in the sixth. Didi Gregorius added an insurance run with a ninth-inning RBI single, and Aledmys Diaz homered off Chasen Shreve in the home half of the frame. New York has defeated Toronto in eight of 12 tries this year.
Severino has allowed three runs or fewer in 16 consecutive starts, surpassing Ron Guidry (1978) for the longest such streak by a Yankee since the start of the Live Ball Era (1920). He is the fourth Yankee to win at least 14 games prior to the All-Star break, joining Whitey Ford (16 in 1961), Mel Stottlemyre (14 in 1969) and Lefty Gomez (14 in 1934).
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Carsten Sabathia -- who wasn't pitching in the game -- was ejected in the top of the third inning by home-plate umpire Lance Barrett for arguing a called third strike to Kyle Higashioka. Later that half-inning, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was also tossed by Barrett, having complained about the umpire's strike zone.
"Really, he didn't say all that much," Boone said of Sabathia. "He was reacting to one pitch. He wasn't overly aggressive about it. I thought it was a quick hook, myself."
Aaron Hicks was removed from Saturday's game in the fifth inning with what the Yankees said was cramping in his left leg. Hicks was replaced by Clint Frazier, who took over in left field as Gardner moved over to center. Albertin Chapman was removed after recording one out in the ninth with a recurrence of the left knee tendinitis that has followed him since early May. Both players are considered day to day. More >
The Yankees will conclude their final visit to Toronto this season on Sunday, with right-hander Domingo German (2-4, 5.37 ERA) drawing the start in the 1:07 p.m. ET contest at Rogers Centre. German received a no-decision in his last start against the Braves, allowing three runs and six hits over 4 1/3 innings. Rookie left-hander Ryan Borucki (0-1, 2.77 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Blue Jays.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.