BOSTON — Aaron Boone’s gambit of passing over J.A. Happ in favor of Luis Severino for Wednesday night’s AL Wild Card game worked out fine when the Yankees beat the A’s.
Now Boone gets to watch Happ start Friday night’s Division Series opener against the Red Sox at Fenway Park and a possible Game 5 back in Boston. It would have been rough if the Yankees had lost to the A’s without using Happ, but the lefthander is ready to go against a team he has dominated this season.
Happ went 1-1 with a 1.99 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox, who were the highest-scoring team in baseball. But excellence against Boston is nothing new for Happ. In his career, he is 8-4 with a 2.98 ERA against Boston in 21 games (20 starts). At Fenway, he’s 5-2, 3.27 in 10 games (nine starts).
“It’s a factor, for sure,” Happ said Thursday night. “Confidence and success feed off each other. That’s just in general. Not really for one specific team. [Boston] is a team that won 108 games. You don’t see that very often. It’s a team that is probably as dynamic a team as there is in baseball. So I’m certainly aware of their capabilities. And never take anything for granted. So it’s going to be fun.”
It’ll be a lot more fun for the Yankees if they can get off to a quick start against Red Sox starter Chris Sale, who held the Yankees to one earned run in 13 innings in two starts this season. When Sale is right, he is as good as anyone in baseball. But the lefthander threw only 17 innings combined in August and September because of shoulder inflammation and is facing questions about reduced velocity.
Happ is facing no such questions. He was the Yankees’ best pitcher down the stretch after coming from Toronto in a July 26 trade, going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts. That’s why many people thought he would get the nod in the win-or-go-home game against the A’s.
But Boone went with Severino for four scoreless innings and two batters in the fifth. The bullpen took over from there and threw five innings as the Yankees advanced to face their ancient rivals.
Happ doesn’t know if his history of success against Boston was the main reason the Yankees picked him up. It probably didn’t hurt.
“I don’t think I thought about that coming over here,” he said. “I think my thought was I was part of a piece that could potentially help them get wherever they wanted to be. I didn’t think of it in terms of specifics. I’m certainly happy to have the ball [Friday] and feel honored to have it.
“I mean, it feels good. I expect to go out and perform. These games, I’ve learned since I came over here in the short while, can be intense. And I certainly expect a lot more of that. But to be honest, I don’t put a ton of thought into that. I try to block a lot of that part out. I’m sure it will be plenty loud.”
So how does he plan to attack the Red Sox?
“I don’t think it makes a whole lot of sense for me to tell you that,” Happ said to laughter.
J.A. Happ's numbers against the Red Sox made him the obvious choice to pitch Game 1 of the ALDS:
8-4, 2.98 ERA
At Fenway Park
5-2, 3.27 ERA
1-1, 1.99 ERA