NEW YORK -- The Yankees approached the non-waiver Trade Deadline with the goal of bolstering their rotation via a market in which solid starting pitching was hard to come by. But the team took a chance at Toronto's J.A. Happ, who had a collective 7.41 ERA in his last four starts prior to the trade. So far it's paid off.
At a time when New York has needed solid outings from its starters, with Luis Severino's recent struggles and Carsten Sabathia on the disabled list, Happ has more than delivered. His success in pinstripes continued on Tuesday night, when he tossed seven shutout innings of one-hit ball to lift the Yankees to a 4-1 victory over the Rays at Yankee Stadium.
"He's really good," manager Aaron Boone said. "It's been evident since we got him, obviously, and what he's been able to do in this league now for a long time and this division in the last couple of years. But you saw a guy really in command of his pitches, his emotions, the ability to really just get back on the mound and repeat his delivery so well. Just a real quality outing from a really good pitcher."
Happ retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced. He walked four and struck out four, with his final strikeout of the evening coming on his 106th pitch, a 2-2 fastball to Kevin Kiermaier that ended the seventh inning, prompting the crowd to erupt in cheers as Happ walked off the mound.
"I was trying to keep it going, trying to pound the zone," Happ said of those last 12 batters. "I definitely was trying to avoid those walks, but I think as the game went on, I was ... getting ahead, and that was key."
"What did he end up with, four walks?" Boone said. "Really, it wasn't a lack of command, it was kind of good at-bats, long at-bats, 3-2 counts they kind of won and were able to take a couple of close pitches. Other than that it was a clinic. I thought his command was good. Just really working both sides of the plate. Great rhythm, great pace to it and fun to sit over there and watch."
Happ has now turned in three consecutive quality starts since coming to the Bronx, going 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in that span. All three starts have been at home after he missed his scheduled outing in Boston after contracting hand, foot and mouth disease. In his last six starts at Yankee Stadium (three as a member of the Blue Jays), he has gone 6-0 with a 2.29 ERA.
"He makes it really easy [to catch him]," catcher Austin Romine said. "He commands his fastball and stays aggressive with his fastball, and he's coming at you. He works in and out really well, he moves the ball really well. The past three outings have been exactly what we needed. ... He's allowing us, since he's got here, to win baseball games, and he's pitching really well."
The Yankees gave Happ a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning on Aaron Hicks' bloop single to shallow center that scored Giancarlo Stanton. Romine then blasted a two-run shot to right field in the fifth, extending his career high to eight long balls. In the eighth, the Yankees added an insurance run on a double to center by Greg Bird.
Dellin Betances started the eighth inning and gave up a home run to Willy Adames on his first pitch, but then recorded three consecutive outs to end the inning. Albertin Chapman allowed one hit in the ninth and picked up his 31st save of the season.
"That looked like Chappy," Boone said. "Even from the get-go, it looked like he was just cutting it loose with more confidence that he knew where it was going. You know, he wasn't feeling for it really, mixing in a really good slider for the strikeout, but I thought [he was] on the attack early. ... It was good to see him fill up the strike zone."
Betances has recorded at least one strikeout in 29 consecutive relief appearances, the longest such streak in Yankees history. He was previously tied with Andrew Miller, who recorded at least one strikeout in 28 consecutive relief appearances in 2016.
HE SAID IT
"I think he kind of comes as advertised. You hear all the stuff from behind the scenes what a quality teammate he is, what a quality pro he is, just the way he goes about it. He wants the ball, fits in really well in the room, just all those intangible things that we heard about him coming over have rung true. And obviously, the performance has followed." -- Boone, on what he's learned about Happ since Happ came to the Yankees
Luis Cessa will take the mound in the second game of the three-game series against the Rays at 7:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Cessa will slide into the rotation in place of the injured Sabathia, who landed on the disabled list on Monday with inflammation in his right knee. Cessa has made eight big league appearances this season, including three starts, and is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA. Last time he was with the Yankees, Cessa gave up five runs through 3 2/3 relief innings in Boston. Right-hander Jake Faria will get the start for Tampa Bay.