2016 has been a career-defining season for J.A. Happ. The Peru, Ill. native — and Northwestern baseball alum — has bounced around the MLB since he was drafted by the Phillies in the 3rd round of the 2004 Draft.
But, he has seemingly found a home with the Toronto Blue Jays, for whom he started in Friday’s Game 2 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Happ, who went 20-4 with a 3.18 ERA this season, gave up just one run to the explosive Rangers in five innings en route to his first ever postseason win as Toronto beat Texas, 5-3. It was Happ’s first playoff appearance since 2009 with Philadelphia.
Happ scattered nine hits during his start, but was able to keep the Rangers off the board until the 4th inning, when Ian Desmond ended his shutout bid with a RBI single. But, J.A. — which stands for James Anthony — was able to limit the damage to just the one score and also got through the 5th, achieving win eligibility.
The win gives the Blue Jays a commanding 2-0 series lead as play shifts to Toronto and the raucous Rogers Centre, where John Gibbons’ team beat the Baltimore Orioles in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday.
This isn’t Happ’s first stint with the Blue Jays, but it has been much more successful than his initial one. Just two seasons after he was traded to the Astros from the Phillies as the centerpiece in a trade involving former All-Star Roy Oswalt, Happ was shipped to the Blue Jays in a multi-player deal. But, Happ’s ERA was over 4.00 for most of his tenure, leading Toronto to send him to the Mariners for Michael Saunders.
Happ then rejuvenated his once-promising career with the Pirates at the end of last season, after a trade deadline move from Seattle to Pittsburgh. He was dominant in 11 late-season starts for the Pirates, leading to a lucrative 3-year, $36 million deal with the Blue Jays. It’s looking like that signing turned out to a great move, for both sides.