J.A. Happ remembers well the last – and only other – time he had faced the Texas Rangers.
It still makes him squirm.
Friday night was payback time.
Happ was superb in outpitching Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers, allowing just one run off two hits over six innings to help lift the Toronto Blue Jays to a 3-2 victory at Rogers Centre.
The left-hander struck out eight, including six in a row in the second and third innings, tying a Blue Jays record.
“I felt good out there,” Happ said. “Coming into today I wanted to throw everything with conviction. That was my goal with a lineup like this.”
Happ still remembers the last time he faced the Rangers.
It was on June 20 back in 2011 when Happ was still a member of the Houston Astros. It was an interleague game against Texas in which Happ lasted just 2.2 innings where he was spanked for seven runs off eight hits.
Happ said the fact he was going head to head against Darvish, the highly-publicized rookie pitcher, was not really on his mind going into the game.
“It’s kind of less about the other starter and more about the lineup you’re facing,” he said. “Those guys got me before. So I just wanted to go out thee and give us a chance.”
Happ was dominant over the first three innings where he recorded seven of his eight strikeouts. He didn’t allow his first hit until the fifth.
“When you look back at the first three innings, that’s as good of a three innings you’ll see anywhere,” said Toronto manager John Farrell.
And Happ (2-1) received just enough offence to earn the victory, starting with a two-run home run by Edwin Encarnacion in the first inning.
Anthony Gose then utilized his speed in the fifth inning, turning a broken bat flare into a triple that ultimately led to Toronto’s winning run.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a triple on a broken bat before,” Farrell said. “Some kind of electrifying speed with Gose on the basepaths.”
After Happ’s departure with the Blue Jays leading 3-1, the game was turned over to the bullpen where five pitchers were called upon over the final three innings to complete the job.
The only hiccup was registered by Steve Delabar, who came on in the six and got into a bit of trouble with a couple of walks and a hit to the six batters he faced.
Delabar was then charged with an unearned run when Omar Vizquel booted a ground ball at third with the bases load that allowed Texas to score their second run.
“It was a total effort down there,” said Casey Janssen, the closer who came on to work a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 16th save of the season. “We talk about passing the baton and everyone came in a got their guys and then moved on to the next guy.”