Happ wins 3rd straight, Jays hit 3 HRs, beat Pirates 7-1
TORONTO (AP) — After a forgettable July, J.A. Happ has been unbeatable so far in August.
Happ pitched six innings to win his third straight start, Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-1 Sunday.
Justin Smoak and Darwin Barney added solo homers for the Blue Jays, who have won nine of 13 at home. The victory was the 700th for manager John Gibbons.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle returned after spending the past two days at funeral services for late slugger Don Baylor.
Happ (6-8) allowed one run and four hits, walked three and struck out eight, improving to 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA in August. He went 1-3 with a 5.00 ERA last month.
“The off-speed was working for me today so tried to capitalize on that,” Happ said.
Happ last won three straight starts in September 2016, en route to his first 20-win campaign.
“He’s been great, pounding the strike zone with the sinker, keep the ball down, keeping the ball in the ballpark and letting our defense work,” infielder Ryan Goins said.
Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen and David Freese hit consecutive singles off Happ in a shaky first, but the former Pirate allowed just two baserunners over the next four innings.
“I thought he was a little bit off early in the game but he found that groove and he was sticking it much better,” Gibbons said.
Hurdle said Happ benefited from home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman’s “liberal strike zone.”
“We were challenged at times,” Hurdle said. “I’d come back up and look and think ‘Man, that’s hard to cover that much territory at the plate.’ He was able to maintain those areas, stay in those areas.”
Former battery-mate Francisco Cervelli credited Happ’s deceptive fastball.
“This guy is throwing 91 miles per hour and it looks like 97,” Cervelli said. “He hides the ball. He knows how to pitch. He’s a veteran. It was the same thing when I was catching him.”
The Blue Jays scored five runs off Chad Kuhl (5-8) in a bat-around first inning. Jose Bautista drew a leadoff walk and scored when Donaldson homered off the facing of the third deck in left. Measured at 452 feet, it was Donaldson’s longest homer of the season.
“They were on it from pitch one,” Kuhl said. “They were ready from the get-go.”
Goins hit a two-run double and later scored on a delayed steal of home, beating the return throw after Cervelli unsuccessfully threw to second base trying to catch Kevin Pillar.
Kuhl had won his previous two starts. He allowed four earned runs in five innings.
Barney connected in the sixth, and Smoak hit his 32nd in the seventh. Both came off Wade LeBlanc.
Pittsburgh managed just one hit after the first, and none in the final five innings.
THREE IS THE KEY
Toronto is 14-5 when hitting three or more home runs.
The Blue Jays are 25-19 in day games and 31-42 under the lights.
HITS ARE HARD TO COME BY
Pittsburgh has been held to four hits or fewer in three of its past five.
Pirates: Cervelli left in the seventh because of a sore left hand. ... McCutchen started at DH after leaving Friday’s game with a sore left knee. He went 1 for 3 with a walk. ... OF Gregory Polanco (left hamstring) was held out of the starting lineup. He left Saturday’s game in the fifth.
Blue Jays: Toronto put RHP Dominic Leone on the bereavement list and recalled LHP Matt Dermody from Triple-A Buffalo.
Pirates: After a day off, Pittsburgh begins a two-game series at Milwaukee on Tuesday. RHP Ivan Nova (10-9, 3.87) will start for the Pirates, facing Brewers RHP Brandon Woodruff (1-1, 1.50). Nova is 0-3 with a 7.25 ERA in his past four starts.
Blue Jays: RHP Nick Tepesch (0-2, 9.00) starts the opener of a four-game series against Tampa Bay. Tepesch allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings in his Toronto debut against the Yankees last Wednesday. RHP Jake Odorizzi (6-5, 4.38) starts for the Rays.
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