M’s notebook: J.A. Happ emerging as second-best starter in rotation
Nelson Cruz has been the most obvious success story of the Mariners’ season so far, tormenting opposing pitching and proving to be worth every bit of the four-year, $57 million contract he signed as a free agent. He’s not the only offseason acquisition making a big impact for Seattle, though.
While Cruz grabbed more headlines with a walkoff single in Friday’s 2-1 win over the Red Sox, left-handed starter J.A. Happ deserved just as much credit in the win after limiting the Red Sox to one run over seven innings on the mound. While he didn’t get the win, it was his fifth quality start in just seven starts this year and kept the door open for Seattle to win in the ninth.
The Mariners brought the 32 year old to town in a one-for-one trade with the Blue Jays in December for outfielder Michael Saunders, hoping he could be the latest in a long line of veteran pitchers to revitalize their careers in spacious Safeco Field. He appears to be doing just that, as he owns a 3-1 record with 2.98 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 35 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings.
For all intents and purposes, the man who the Mariners slotted in at the No. 5 spot in the rotation has been their second best pitcher behind only the King himself, Felix Hernandez. He’s second among Seattle starters in wins, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, innings pitched, quality starts and WAR (1.2).
Considering what general manager Jack Zduriencik gave up to get Happ, the Mariners have made out like bandits. While Happ is excelling, the injury-plagued Saunders is already on the DL for the second time this season and is batting just .194 with no homers in nine games for the Blue Jays.
Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon was happy with Happ’s outing on Friday, but he spread his praise out to cover the entire rotation’s performance in the 10 games since four straight losses in Houston. Opponents have pushed across five runs just once since then vs. the Mariners and four runs just three times, and in that stretch the M’s are 6-4.
“We’re very encouraged by our starters. I think our last 10, 12 starts have been outstanding,” McClendon said. “I think they’re really starting to pick it up, they’re starting to feed off each other.
“I like our rotation, one through five. I really like it. It gives us a good chance to win every night.”
• The lineup for tonight’s game is located at this link.
• Austin Jackson (sprained ankle) will start his rehab assignment tonight, leading off and playing DH for Triple-A Tacoma. He could be activated from the 15-day disabled list when he becomes eligible Tuesday.
• The Mariners are going all out for the Turn Back the Clock promotion tonight, utilizing black and white video on the Mariners Vision, playing period-appropriate music, decking the grounds crew out in all-white coveralls, and even issuing special white T-shirts in King’s Court. The Mariners’ black-and-white uniforms honor the 1946 Seattle Steelheads, who played one season in the West Coast Negro Baseball League. The Red Sox uniforms are based on the Boston Royal Giants, a Negro leagues team that played in the 30s and 40s.