Toronto's J.A. Happ has certainly had to deal with his share of adversity this season, and now he'll return to the place where his year was turned upside down.
The Blue Jays left-hander takes the mound at Tropicana Field on Saturday night for the first time since early May, when one of the most frightening incidents of the major league season occurred there against the Tampa Bay Rays .
Happ (2-2, 5.11 ERA) suffered a skull fracture and sprained right knee when he fell to the ground after being struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings on May 7.
After missing three months, Happ makes his third start since returning from the disabled list as he tries to keep the Rays (69-51) from winning their fourth in a row.
Tampa Bay has also won four straight and six of seven over the AL East-worst Blue Jays (56-66) after Jose Lobaton hit a game-ending triple in the ninth inning for a 5-4 victory in Friday's opener.
Rays manager Joe Maddon is one person looking forward to Happ's return, particularly after Tampa Bay right-hander Alex Cobb pitched well in his comeback Thursday from a similar incident.
"It's good for (Happ)," Maddon told the league's official website. "It's the same thing Cobber did. You have to start riding the horse again. It's horrible. I wish him well. It's something he has to do for himself, and it's tough."
Happ had to pitch with a heavy heart Monday, allowing one run and three hits over a season-high seven innings in a 5-1 loss to Oakland just days after the death of his grandfather. He also matched a season high with six strikeouts but did not factor in the decision.
Happ will attempt to build on that performance versus the Rays, though he's 0-1 with a 10.97 ERA in three career starts against them. He was tagged for four runs and five hits in 1 1-3 innings before getting injured in May.
James Loney is 4 for 7 when facing Happ and is batting .370 during a seven-game hitting streak against the Blue Jays. Jennings will miss this meeting with a broken left middle finger and is expected to return next week.
Since batting .204 with runners in scoring position during a six-game losing streak, the Rays have gone 10 for 28 in those situations over their last three games. They pulled within one game of the East lead as the Yankees beat first-place Boston 10-3 on Friday.
Tampa Bay gives the ball to right-hander Roberto Hernandez (6-12, 4.95), who hasn't made it out of the fifth inning in his last two starts. He matched a season high by allowing five earned runs and eight hits over four innings in a 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium last Saturday."He didn't have really good stuff," Maddon said. "He told me the ball was not moving like it normally does for him and it was kind of flat."
The Rays have dropped both his starts versus the Blue Jays, though Hernandez has held Toronto to four runs and 11 hits - three homers - over 14-plus innings.
Adam Lind has homered twice when facing Hernandez this season and is 5 for 13 lifetime against him. He had two hits Friday, raising his average to .175 (7 for 40) versus the Rays this year.
Teammate Brett Lawrie went 2 for 5 in the opener and is batting .421 since Aug. 1.
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|August 12, 2013||Colby Rasmus||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|August 10, 2013||Juan Perez||60-Day DL||Torn UCL ligament, left elbow|
|August 07, 2013||Josh Johnson||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm|
|August 03, 2013||Steve Delabar||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 02, 2013||Melky Cabrera||15-Day DL||Left knee strain|
|July 30, 2013||Dustin McGowan||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|August 04, 2013||Desmond Jennings||15-Day DL||Fractured left middle finger|
|August 02, 2013||Brandon Guyer||15-Day DL||Fractured right middle finger|
|July 29, 2013||Matt Moore||15-Day DL||Left elbow soreness|
|June 30, 2013||Jesse Crain||15-Day DL||Sprained right shoulder|
|June 28, 2013||Evan Longoria||Day-to-Day||Plantar fasciitis, left foot|
|June 16, 2013||Alex Cobb||60-Day DL||Concussion|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (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."
NOTES: Blue Jays SS Jose Reyes was out of the lineup with right knee soreness and is not expected back until Tuesday. ... Tampa Bay placed DH Luke Scott on the 15-day DL due to lower back spasms and reinstated RHP Brandon Gomes (strained right lat) from the 60-day DL. ... OF Wil Myers was the Rays' DH for the third consecutive game, but should play in the field Sunday. Maddon said Myers is physically fine, and that the rookie handles the DH role well. Maddon added it's also an opportunity to keep Myers off his feet. ... Jennings is on the DL with a broken left middle finger, but could return Monday.