Fresh off an 8-0 victory in their first game against the Red Sox, the Yankees went into Wednesday night hoping to complete the mini-sweep. It did happen, but it almost didn’t because something else Happened.
J.A. Happ got off to a quick start, retiring Mookie Betts and Xander Boegarts. Then all of a sudden, a loud bang off J.D. Martinez’s bat. The Red Sox were up 1-0 before the Yankees even had a chance to bat. Mitch Moreland led off the second inning with a single and with two outs
second baseman catcher Christian Vazquez took Happ deep this time. It was 3-0 Red Sox after two innings.
Things got bad fast, and it seemed like the Yankees were headed to a series split considering the offense could get nothing going against Nathan Eovaldi. Luckily, the Red Sox bullpen had other ideas. Brett Gardner hit a grand slam that gave the Yankees a 5-3 lead that would be the final score. After a rough first two innings, Happ settled down and his final line is actually respectable: 6.1 innings pitched, 3 runs, 1 walk.
Happ’s had trouble with the long ball this season, and that trend continued on Wednesday. At least he was able to keep the team in the game. So what happened midway through the game that brought this about?
Happ became a much different pitcher in the third and threw one four-seamer in 18 pitch inning. Entering tonight, he threw four-seamers 64 pct of the time. But he gave up 2 early homers on that pitch. Breakdown from third: 7 sliders. 7 two-seamers. 3 changes. 1 four-seamer.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) April 17, 2019
Looks like either he or the coaching staff — what a pleasant surprise that would be — noticed the problem with his four-seamer, and they essentially eliminated it going forward.
Now if that was really Happ’s issue and he turned the page on the season, that’s great. But the Yankees can’t afford to assume that’s true. They have to be ready just in case he hasn’t actually made improvements. The home runs are a real problem, and they aren’t going to go away on their own.
I don’t think Yankees will, or even should, act right now, but they have to be ready to pull the trigger. Obviously acquiring outside help like Dallas Keuchel is unlikely, and he wouldn’t be an option to come in for Happ as he would need to get ready. Fortunately, the Yankees do have some internal options should they see the need to make a move.
It’s too drastic a move to completely pull Happ from the rotation this early, but they could skip a start or two of his and allow him to work things out from the bullpen. If they do decide to go that route, then they have Gio Gonzalez eager for a chance down in Scranton. They also could also let Jonathan Loaisiga come back up for a few spot starts.
Considering Happ’s contract, it’s not like the Yankees can just cut ties wit him and be done with it. They have to handle this delicately, but it would be a big problem if he’s dropped off this badly. That’s why they have to proceed with caution. Since he showed some signs of life on Wednesday, that bought him at least another start.
After that, it’ll be the Yankees’ call. If they like what they see, then great. This is all a moot point. If there’s any sign of trouble, they have to make a move.
They’re already behind in the division and aren’t really in a position to get experimental and give games away. Fortunately, the Red Sox are staggering for now as well, but they won’t slump forever. Plus, the Rays look real. The Yankees needs every advantage they can get, and him being homer Happ-y puts them at a distinct disadvantage.
*Credit to Kento Mizuno for “mis-Happ.”