LHP J.A. Happ (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
Welcome to Pittsburgh, J.A. Happ. There’s a horde of angry Yinzers outside who’d like a word with you. Or perhaps with GM Neal Huntington, whose trade-deadline moves have so far not resulted in much production for the Pirates, who lost 5-0 Tuesday night.
Happ allowed eight hits and four runs in 4 1/3 innings. He wasn’t the only problem in the defeat — "We couldn't score runs,“ Francisco Cervelli offered, for one. ”We've got to score runs." — but he certainly wasn’t effective. He pitched deep in counts, elevating his pitch count early, and left balls up and over the plate often.
"I'm going to be better, determined to be better, and looking forward to the next one," Happ said.
Here’s the very nice way Clint Hurdle described Happ’s outing: "There were some solid sequences throughout the evening. The overall consistency, we've got to get some improvement there. You saw quality pitches just about every at-bat. ... We've got some things to focus on moving forward."
Happ loaded the bases in the first — due in part to Aramis Ramirez’s throwing error — and walked in a run in his first inning in a Pirates uniform.
“This is the big leagues,” Cervelli said. “You make mistakes, and you pay.”
Otherwise, Happ was pretty hittable, whereas Jake Arrieta was not.
"I knew we were going up against a tough guy there, so I was trying to keep it as close as I could,“ Happ said. ”Didn't work out tonight."
Happ, 32, said he was anxious to get this debut under his belt. He knew he put the Pirates in a tough spot by not going deeper into the game. He also agreed with what Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star starters Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke said recently: the Cubs make you throw a lot of pitches, man. They might strike out a lot (14 times tonight), but they’re not getting out in three pitches or fewer.
"They're a dangerous bunch,“ Happ said. ”They have a lot of power, a lot of speed. They laid off some good pitches — I expected them to swing at some of them, to be honest — and that makes it tougher to come back and exectue your next pitch."
Happ now is 4-7 with a 4.78 ERA. In four starts since the All-Star break, however, his ERA is 9.18. (He hasn’t posted a sub-4.00 ERA in any season since 2010.)
"I need to trust my stuff and continue to be aggressive,“ he explained when asked about his recent fall-off in production. ”Hits are going to happen, runs are going to happen in this game. When they do, continuing to trust my stuff and trust that it plays and works at this level. If I have more of that attitude, good things will happen."
Happ’s next outing is scheduled to come on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals. He’ll spend the in-between days getting comfortable with his catchers — both Cervelli and Happ said it takes a while to develop a rapport — and trying to fill a big hole in the Pirates rotation.
"I wasn't thinking about trying to fill [A.J. Burnett’s] shoes,“ Happ said. ”I was just trying to come in and be the best me I can be. I know I can be better than I was tonight."
INDIANAPOLIS (64-47) beat Durham, 5-1. RHP Wilfredo Boscan (8-3, 3.33) was the winner, giving up 8 hits in 6 scoreless innings. C Elias Diaz (.269) had 2 RBIs. 2B Alen Hanson (.275) went 2 for 5.
ALTOONA (58-52) lost to New Britain, 6-1. LHP Zack Dodson (5-9, 3.98) was the loser, allowing 5 runs (3 earned) and 7 hits in 5 1/3 innings. 2B Erich Weiss (.267) went 2 for 5 with an RBI. CF Adam Frazier (.353) went 2 for 3 and walked twice.
BRADENTON (55-52) lost to Jupiter, 9-3. RHP Frank Duncan (7-7, 4.64) was the loser, giving up 7 runs (6 earned) and 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings. C Reese McGuire (.272) had 2 RBIs.
WEST VIRGINIA POWER (63-44) lost to Greenville, 3-2. LHP Stephen Tarpley (2.32) allowed 2 runs and 4 hits with 8 strikeouts in 6 innings. LHP John Sever (3-3, 3.12) was the loser. LF Elvis Escobar (.285) went 2 for 3.
WEST VIRGINIA BLACK BEARS (23-21) lost to Auburn, 8-3. RHP Seth McGarry (1-2, 5.40) was the loser, giving up 4 runs and 3 hits in 5 innings. 2B Kevin Kramer (.250) went 3 for 5 with 2 doubles and 2 RBIs.
GCL PIRATES (21-12) split a doubleheader with GCL Tigers, losing, 3-1, and winning, 2-0. In the first game, RHP Shane Kemp (0-1, 6.00) was the loser, giving up 2 runs and 3 hits in 3 innings. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes (.363) went 2 for 3. In the second game, RHP Chris Plitt (1-1, 4.18) was the winner, allowing 2 hits in 5 innings. CF Michael De La Cruz (.288) went 2 for 3.
BRISTOL (17-20) played Kingsport, late.
RHP Jake Arrieta (AP)
Game: Pirates (61-43) vs. Cubs (57-47)
Time: 7:05 p.m.
Site: PNC Park
TV, radio: ROOT Sports, KDKA-FM 93.7
Weather: 80 and partly cloudy
1. Gregory Polanco RF
2. Starling Marte LF
3. Andrew McCutchen CF
4. Aramis Ramirez 3B
5. Jung Ho Kang SS
6. Neil Walker
7. Pedro Alvarez 1B
8. Francisco Cervelli C
9. J.A. Happ LHP
1. Dexter Fowler CF
2. Chris Denorfia LF
3. Kris Bryant 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo 1B
5. Jorge Soler RF
6. Starlin Castro SS
7. David Ross C
8. Jake Arrieta RHP
9. Addison Russell 2B
INDIANAPOLIS (63-47) lost to Durham, 4-3. RHP Radhames Liz (3-4, 1.25) was the loser, allowing 4 runs (2 earned) and 2 hits in 6 innings. RF Willy Garcia (.250) homered. C Tony Sanchez (.235) went 2 for 3 with an RBI.
ALTOONA (58-51) did not play.
BRADENTON (55-51) did not play
WEST VIRGINIA POWER (63-43) beat Greenville, 5-1. RHP Austin Coley (13-5, 3.83) was the winner, giving up 1 run and 5 hits in 7 innings. RF Jerrick Suiter (.304) went 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs. 2B Pablo Reyes (.247) had 2 RBIs.
WEST VIRGINIA BLACK BEARS (23-20) beat Auburn, 6-3. RHP Juan Paula (3-2, 5.06) was the winner, allowing 3 runs and 4 hits in 5 innings. 2B Kevin Kramer (.236) went 3 for 3 with 2 RBIs and walked twice. LF Ryan Nagle (.242) had 2 RBIs.
GCL PIRATES (20-11) vs. GCL Tigers, ppd.
BRISTOL (17-20) did not play.
RHP A.J. Burnett (Ben Margot/AP)
Monday’s news that A.J. Burnett would miss about four weeks with a right flexor strain was a big sigh of relief for Burnett.
"Of all the news that could have come,“ he said, ”this is the most positive."
Burnett met with media for a few minutes before the Pirates’ game Monday night. He seemed grateful the diagnosis hadn’t been far worse, as many had feared.
Here’s most of what he had to say ...
On when he might return ...
"The timetable is iffy. We're shooting at four weeks. Could be before, could be after." Waiting for soreness of shot to go away. Plan is to pitch again. "This is the news you want in order to get back on the mound. If it was anything ligament-wise, I'd have to reconsider. ... I was hoping for no bad news, but this was the news I was more hoping for than not, because guys come back from this." GRILLI. Talked with a few guys. "It's my best shot to get back on the mound."
Did you let yourself go to that dark place of thinking you’d thrown your last pitch already?
"Everybody was writing it, so you can't help but think about it. I was prepared for both. I've been down this road 12 years ago with the Tommy John. The feeling is so similar when it happens."
Is it encouraging that you should be able to go out on your own terms?
"Honestly, this ain't my terms. This is just what I've got to deal with. The fact I can get back on the mound healthy is what I'm going for. If it's like the other night, I can't take the mound. I won't feel right. If I'm not at a level to compete the way I need to compete and stay within myself where it's not affecting me as a player and a human on the field, then I won't. But this is the news and situation where I can get back to where I can just compete the way I compete without having anything in the back of my mind slowing anything down."
An arm injury made Mariano Rivera decide to play another year. Might you reconsider, too?
"This is my last year. ... I'm not Mariano Rivera. My mind is made up. I have the news now where I feel 100 percent positive that I will return. Now, if the results were different my mind wouldn't be made up, it'd just be a terrible way to go out. The way I look at it is I have given my heart to these guys and this city the best I can, the best I could with coming back, and I'm very pleased I'll get the opportunity hopefully to do that again in four weeks."
Hard to have patience at a time like this?
"One hundred percent. Yeah. But I'm going to be smart about it, too. There's no going out there like the other night. I can't do that to myself or these guys. It's not fair. But I'm looking forward to it, man, to having no doubts, to putting a step forward every day and getting back out there. I'm not going to jeopardize anything for me not to be able to get on the field. I'm going to do everything in my power to get back on the field."
Did you have your family in town for moral support?
“Yeah, yeah. ... And the support of the fans and the city ... social media has been off the hook. It's really humbling to know everybody is there and has your back."