NEW YORK -- On Saturday, before he even stepped on the field for the first time as a Yankee, J.A. Happ said that putting on the pinstripes already felt right. Then, on Sunday, the left-hander proved just how good he felt after a solid debut in the Bronx for his
NEW YORK -- On Saturday, before he even stepped on the field for the first time as a Yankee, J.A. Happ said that putting on the pinstripes already felt right. Then, on Sunday, the left-hander proved just how good he felt after a solid debut in the Bronx for his new club.
Happ tossed six sparkling innings, permitting just one run on three hits with one walk and two strikeouts in the Yankees' 6-3 victory in the series finale against the Royals. The victory was Happ's first win since June 25 after he recorded three losses and a no-decision in his last four starts for Toronto.
"Look, as I've told you guys, I'm a big J.A. Happ guy," manager Aaron Boone said. "Just seeing him come in here with the intensity, with the focus, but also just really comfortable, it seems like he's already fitting in well. ... For him to go out and give us a strong outing like he did, I'm sure he feels really good about that, and hopefully it just goes a long way to getting him settled in, because he's going to be important for us, obviously, in the second half."
Pitching for a team that made it clear it was on a quest for help in the pitching department prior to Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, Happ felt pressure to make a good first impression after he was acquired to be part of the solution.
"I think I'd be lying if I said [I didn't feel pressure]," Happ said. "I think for sure you're definitely wanting to have good results. They traded for you, there's some pressure in that. It's fun with these guys playing behind me, too. We had some nice defensive plays that helped me get through six there."
Happ's lone mistake came in his final inning, on a 3-2 fastball that Salvador Perez launched into the Yankees' bullpen. Chad Green came in to start the seventh -- after Happ threw 96 pitches, exiting the game with a 6-1 Yankees lead -- and allowed a solo home run to Hunter Dozier. The Royals picked up their other run in the eighth, when Rosell Herrera took Player Page for David Robertson deep for his first career home run.
"It's huge for us," catcher Austin Romine said of Happ's performance. "That's why we got him. He knows how to pitch, he's been in situations before where he's got to pitch well, so today was a really professional performance. His demeanor on the mound is calm, like he's been here before. It was weird, it was almost like I caught him before, [we were] so much on the same page. He was just so calm, cool and collected the way he goes about pitching. Great performance by him."
After bringing in the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning on Saturday night, Aaron Hicks got the Yankees' offense started in the first, clanking a two-run home run off the right-field foul pole as part of a three-hit day.
"I feel like the last couple days we're starting to see a lot of good at-bats from [Hicks], this weekend especially," Boone said. "Got us off to a good start on the homer, and I thought [it was] a really good swing on a breaking ball where he hits the double. ... It was nice to see him have a big impact early and get us out to a lead."
Miguel Andujar plated Hicks in the fourth on a single to center off Royals starter Burch Smith, who allowed five runs on five hits through four-plus innings. Greg Bird knocked in another on an infield single in the fifth after a run scored on a Gleyber Torres groundout that was originally ruled an inning-ending double play before being overturned.
The Yankees picked up an insurance run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Giancarlo Stanton, and Albertin Chapman struck out the side in his second consecutive outing to record his 28th save of the season. The closer had struck out only three of his previous 16 batters faced entering Sunday.
"To get him into games is always good, because one, we're winning, obviously, and it's usually a save situation, but also, we do like our guys getting out there when it's been a long time, just to help them stay sharp," Boone said. "I think back-to-back days, good performances by him, [there were] some really good sliders that he mixed in today to finish things off."
Happ is the first pitcher to start a game for both the Yankees and Blue Jays in the same season since David Cone in 1995.
HE SAID IT
"Happ? [I couldn't tell], not even a little bit. He's so calm in the way he goes around the mound and the way he pitches and his delivery and everything like that. If he was, I couldn't see it. I thought it was business as usual. He was on the glove, and he was making pitches. It was fun to catch." -- Romine, on Happ saying he was "amped up" in the first inning of his Yankees debut
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fifth, Torres hit a ground ball to Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield. Merrifield charged the ball, reached out to apply a tag on Hicks -- who was running to second -- and flipped the ball to first to get Torres. But what was originally ruled an inning-ending double play was overturned when the Yankees challenged, asking for a second look to see if Hicks had been tagged on his way to second. It was then ruled that Merrifield missed the tag; only the out at first was recorded, extending the inning and allowing Brett Gardner to cross the plate to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.
The Yankees will have the day off on Monday before hosting the Orioles on Tuesday in the opener of a two-game series. Masahiro Tanaka (8-2, 4.09 ERA) will get the ball for New York, coming off a shutout against the Rays in which he struck out nine for his eighth win of the season. Tanaka has been hot in July, posting a 2.29 ERA in 19 2/3 innings over three starts. Right-hander Yefry Ramirez (1-3, 3.49 ERA) will take the mound for Baltimore. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.