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Aaron Boone has to work hard to get J.A. Happ to leave strong performance

J.A. Happ of the New York Yankees pitches

J.A. Happ of the New York Yankees pitches during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on July 13, 2019. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jim McIsaac

It wasn’t your average Yankees pitching change.

With one out in the sixth inning of a scoreless game and runners on first and second after a pair of singles, manager Aaron Boone went to the mound to replace starter J.A. Happ with reliever Adam Ottavino. The conversation between Boone and Happ went on a while.

“He just wanted to stay in, which I love about J.A., especially he's throwing the ball well. He wanted to finish it off,'' Boone said after the Yankees' 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday at the Stadium.

That was understandable. Happ  called it “one of my best games.” He has allowed two or fewer runs in two straight games and three of four and might be throwing better than he has all season.

He wound up being charged with two runs  – the inherited runners scored on Randal Grichuk’s two-out bloop single off Ottavino – five hits and one walk with five strikeouts.

“I was hoping we could have a little conversation before he made the decision,” Happ said. “[Ottavino] comes in there and a lot more often than not finds a way out of there. It was just that whole inning was, you kinda shake your head at. I just wanted to stay in there and have another hitter or two.”

Said Boone, “We had Otto set up for the two righties. I just felt like in a way we were set up from there. It just didn't work out today.''

Boone thought Happ’s slider and fastball were particularly effective. He described the slider being thrown at multiple speeds, fast to get cutting action and slower to get a bigger break.

Happ attributes his improvement to having “conviction with every pitch.”

“I feel like I was throwing some games where I had some conviction at times, but not with everything,” he added. “My mentality is right behind everything right now and I feel like that’s showing a little more.”

Happ had been very inconsistent, winning more because of run support than strong pitching until recently. He’s in a very different place now.

“I did find a way to [have conviction] consistently in every pitch. If you have 100, you’ve got to have it 100 out of 100,” he said. “I just didn’t want to go home and feel like I got beat on something I wasn’t convicted in. I feel like I am in a better spot right now.”

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