NEW YORK (AP) — This is exactly what the New York Yankees were hoping for when they added J.A. Happ.
The veteran left-hander permitted just one soft single in seven shutout innings to win his third start in a row, pitching the Yankees past the Tampa Bay Rays 4-1 on Tuesday night.
“It was a clinic,” manager Aaron Boone said.
Austin Romine hit a two-run homer as New York (75-44) equaled its season high at 31 games above .500 and improved to 7-2 since getting swept in four games at Boston. Still, the AL wild-card leaders remained 10 games behind the runaway Red Sox in the AL East despite having the second-best record in the majors.
Aaron Hicks had an early RBI single for the Yankees, who won for the 14th time in 17 home games against Tampa Bay over the past two seasons. Miguel Andujar and slumping Greg Bird contributed consecutive two-out doubles in the eighth to make it 4-1.
Happ (13-6) struck out four and walked four, throwing 71 of 106 pitches for strikes. He was helped by a double play and a caught stealing, but the only hit off him was a flyball by C.J. Cron that fell in front of left fielder Brett Gardner in the fourth. Happ retired Carlos Gomez on a line drive to first base with two on to end the inning and was never threatened after that.
“He’s a fastball pitcher. There’s no secret to what he’s trying to do. He’s coming at you,” Romine said. “I didn’t see too many comfortable at-bats, which is always a good sign.”
Happ is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three outings — all at Yankee Stadium — since New York acquired him from Toronto in a July 26 trade. He missed one turn because of hand, foot and mouth disease.
“We just couldn’t make the adjustment to the fastball,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He had it really going tonight.”
Happ is 7-1 in 11 career starts in the Bronx and has won each of his past six (three for the Blue Jays), with a 2.29 ERA during that span.
“It’s motivating to pitch in Yankee Stadium. It’s motivating to be on this team, be in a pennant race,” he said. “Heck, yeah. This is fun.”
Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman completed a crisp three-hitter that took just 2 hours, 32 minutes, following a 21-minute rain delay at the start. Shaking off some recent struggles, Chapman worked a one-hit ninth for his 31st save in 33 chances.
Willy Adames homered for the Rays on Betances’ first pitch in the eighth.
After a costly error by Adames in the first, Hicks blooped a run-scoring single over a drawn-in infield against Tampa Bay opener Hunter Wood (0-1).
Romine, batting ninth, curled an opposite-field homer inside the right-field foul pole off Jalen Beeks on the first pitch following a leadoff walk to Neil Walker in the fifth.
“I was willing it to stay fair,” Romine said.
Filling in for injured slugger Gary Sanchez behind the plate, Romine has eight home runs in 182 at-bats this year after totaling seven in 563 at-bats over his previous six major league seasons.
Beeks was a bright spot for the Rays, striking out eight on a career-high 93 pitches in five effective innings. He retired his first nine batters, fanning six in a row and seven of eight. The 25-year-old lefty was obtained from Boston in a July 25 trade for Nathan Eovaldi. “I think there’s more confidence. There’s more comfort in these outings and it’ll continue to go that way as he gets more reps,” Cash said.
Betances fanned his second batter to give him at least one strikeout in 29 straight relief appearances, setting a record for the longest streak in Yankees history.
HOME SWEET HOME
New York leads the season series 7-6, and the home team is 11-2. The Yankees have won their last 12 series at home against Tampa Bay, dating to September 2014.
Rays: OF Tommy Pham (broken right foot) rejoined the team and will begin a rehab assignment Wednesday with Class A Hudson Valley that could last just a day or two, Cash said. … RHP Chaz Roe (left knee) was reinstated from the disabled list. He had been sidelined since early July.
Yankees: CC Sabathia said he had his troublesome right knee drained Monday for the second time this season. He also received another lubricant injection, but said the swelling is gone and he’ll probably try to play catch Wednesday. The 38-year-old lefty, placed on the 10-day disabled list Monday, thinks he’ll only miss one turn. … C Gary Sanchez (groin) will probably go to Florida this weekend. He could begin a rehab assignment next week in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Boone said.
Rays: RHP Jake Faria (4-3, 4.97 ERA) makes his 11th start of the season Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. “He’s built up. I think he can probably go four or five innings. We’ll see how efficient he is,” Cash said. “It’s been probably a pretty trying season for him and he knows that there’s some time left here to kind of fix some things, make some adjustment and finish strong.”
Yankees: RHP Luis Cessa (1-2, 4.50) will be recalled from the minors to make a spot start in the middle game of the series.
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