There’s no question 2011 has been a major step backward for J.A. Happ(notes), but the Astros left-hander finally came through with a dominant effort his last time out to earn just his second win in his last 16 starts.
There’s every reason to believe he can repeat that performance Wednesday night.
One week after silencing Pittsburgh’s bats in Houston, Happ tries to do it again at PNC Park as the Pirates and Astros conclude this three-game series.
Happ (5-15, 5.71 ERA) has the highest ERA of any NL pitcher who’s made at least 20 starts, a far cry from the promise he showed while going 18-8 with a 3.09 ERA the past two seasons.
He was sent to the minors Aug. 6 after allowing at least five runs in eight straight starts, but was solid in his return to the rotation Aug. 26 and outstanding five days later. Happ held the Pirates (65-77) to three singles over seven innings last Wednesday - striking out six - in a 2-0 victory.
In what’s been a trying season for everyone involved with the Astros (48-94), Happ is trying to change his outlook in September.
“I might have got caught up in (the negativity) a little bit,” Happ, who has a 2.00 ERA in seven career starts versus Pittsburgh, told the team’s official website. “There’s just not reason for it. I’m just going out there and trying to have fun again, and having some success is fun. They kind of go hand in hand.
“I’ve kind of been saying this whole year it’s not going to take a whole lot. It might take one inning of rolling over a lineup and you try to feed off something like that.”
That was only Happ’s second win since May 14, a funk Brett Myers(notes) could relate to heading into Tuesday’s game. The right-hander hadn’t won in 14 starts before holding the Pirates to a run over 7 2-3 innings in a 4-1 victory that featured three hits from Jimmy Paredes(notes) and three RBIs from Humberto Quintero(notes).
Despite his dominance of Pittsburgh just seven days ago, Happ has a few factors working against him in his quest to do it again. He has a 6.95 ERA on the road as opposed to a 4.78 mark at home, and working on more than five days’ rest has been his downfall.
In 11 starts on regular rest in 2011, Happ has a 3.80 ERA. In 13 outings with five or more days between starts, he has a major league-worst 7.51 ERA.
Brian Burres(notes) (1-0, 1.69) counters for the Pirates, who would gladly settle for a similar outing to what he gave them Friday in his major league season debut. The lefty held the Cubs to a run and five hits over 5 1-3 innings in a 3-1 victory.
“(Burres) did a very professional job,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s pitched in the big leagues before so he wasn’t overwhelmed with anything. I thought he kept the ball down especially well today.”
Burres is 1-0 with a 6.14 ERA in two games - one start - against Houston.
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