Blue Jays-Twins Preview
J.A. Happ ending his own struggles against the Minnesota Twins would mean extending the Toronto Blue Jays' streak in this series.
The Blue Jays' seventh straight win over the Twins on Saturday would also end Happ's issues against them and push Minnesota's losing streak to five games.
Toronto (21-23) had lost four straight before winning the first two of this four-game set on Thursday and Friday. After a 3-2, 11-inning win in the opener, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Michael Saunders and Darwin Barney homered in Friday's 9-3 victory to hand Minnesota (10-31) its fifth straight loss and 17th in 20 games.
“We're trying to find ways the best we can,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “It's challenging. These guys are hungry to win games, and it's just not happening.”
Happ (5-1, 3.40 ERA) was cruising through the early portion of the season before running into Tampa Bay on Monday. The southpaw suffered his first loss, surrendering a season-high eight runs in a season-low two innings. The Rays tagged him for seven hits, including a pair of two-run homers, to push his ERA up from 2.05 to 3.40.
“I was pulling my two-seam fastball,” Happ told MLB's official website. “I pulled two kind of middle-in for the two home runs, and I wasn't hitting on my other pitches (Monday night). I felt good in the bullpen, nothing was different. I just didn't execute, and it got away from me quick.”
The 10-year veteran will try to pull things in quickly and reverse some bad fortune against the Twins. Happ hasn't made it out of the fourth inning in each of his last two starts against them, surrendering 15 hits and 11 runs – nine earned – in seven innings. He gave up four home runs in those outings while Minnesota batted .417 against him.
The Twins hit three homers and scored seven times off Happ in 3 1/3 innings of a 9-5 win in Minnesota on July 30. Brian Dozier is 3 for 7 with two home runs and three RBIs against Happ, and Eddie Rosario has doubled and homered with three RBIs in two at-bats.
Minnesota will counter with Pat Dean (0-1, 4.50), who gets his first start after making his first two big league appearances out of the bullpen this month. The 26-year-old left-hander gave up 14 hits and four runs in eight innings between the two outings, including 10 hits and a pair of runs in 5 1/3 during Monday's 10-8 loss at Detroit.
The last relief appearance was essentially a start, and opening games is where Dean is more comfortable. He had made only four appearances out of the bullpen in his pro career before getting called up earlier this month, all coming in rookie ball in 2010.
Dean entered Monday's contest with only two outs recorded in the first inning and ended up throwing 91 pitches, the most by a Twins reliever since Liam Hendriks tossed 99 on Sept. 27, 2013.
“I just did what I could to eat some innings and save the bullpen a bit,” Dean told MLB's official website. “I know that's my job as the long guy. I was able to do that and keep us in the game for a little bit.”