ST. PETERSBURG (AP) — J.A. Happ had a successful return to Florida three months after a scary injury.
Happ won in his first game at Tropicana Field since getting hit in the head by a ball and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2 on Saturday.
“It was great,” Happ said. “I was looking forward to it. Probably haven’t pitched the best here and I was looking forward to having the opportunity to come and try and change that up a little bit. Have a good game. Keep us in the game.”
Happ (3-2), who suffered a skull fracture and sprained right knee when he fell to the ground after getting hit with a liner by Desmond Jennings on May 7, allowed two runs and five hits over 5 1-3 innings. It was his third start overall since returning from the disabled list.
“I thought Happ pitched really well,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “You’ve got to congratulate him, based on what happened to him previously, how difficult that may have been. A big part of our problem tonight was how well he pitched. I thought his stuff was really good, maybe as good as I’ve seen him.”
It was Happ’s first victory since beating Kansas City on April 12.
“He threw great,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
Adam Lind homered twice for the Blue Jays. Jose Bautista hit his 28th homer of the season.
Happ retired nine in a row before Jason Bourgeois opened the fourth with a bunt single down the first base line. Happ fielded the bunt and landed hard on his right knee while shoveling the ball to first from his glove. The left-hander stayed in the game after making a couple of warmup throws.
“I kind of landed on the kneecap there, pushed it in,” Happ said. “I just needed a couple minutes to let it die down. It was fine after that.”
Ben Zobrist hit a sacrifice fly and Yunel Escobar had a run-scoring single later in the fourth to get Tampa Bay within 3-2.
Bautista put the Blue Jays up 1-0 on a solo shot off Roberto Hernandez (6-13) in the first. Edwin Encarnacion drove in a run with a grounder and Brett Lawrie had an RBI single as Toronto took a 3-0 lead in the third.
Lind had a solo shot and Lawrie scored a nifty base running play to put the Blue Jays ahead 5-2 in the sixth. Lawrie was on second and took off for third, catching reliever Alex Torres off guard. The Rays left-hander made a last-second errant throw to third that allowed Lawrie to score.
“He did it on his own,” Gibbons said. “He caught the guy sleeping out there, and we caught a break throwing it away. Brett, he’s feeling good about himself.”
Lind added a solo drive in the eighth. He move past Ernie Whitt (131) into eighth place on the Blue Jays’ career home run list with 133.
Hernandez gave up five runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Happ’s outing came two days after Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb allowed one run over five innings in the Rays’ 7-1 victory over Seattle, his first big league game since being hit in the head by a batted ball two months ago.
Cobb sustained a concussion after being struck on the right ear by a liner hit by Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer on June 15 at Tropicana Field.
With a win Sunday, the Blue Jays will win a road series against Tampa Bay for the first time since April 2007. That information was written on a message board in the Toronto clubhouse.
“Roy Halladay couldn’t beat Tampa,” Lind said. “Obviously we know how hard it is to come in here and not just winning a series, but winning a game.”
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