J.A. Happ has strengthened his case for a spot in the New York Yankees' playoff rotation during his last two starts. He'll try to keep that momentum going during the first game of a doubleheader in Detroit on Thursday.
CC Sabathia will start the other game for New York in the straight doubleheader, which became a necessity due to Wednesday's postponement.
Happ has caught fire in September after struggling much of the season. He held Oakland to one hit in six innings during the first day of the month, then silenced Boston on two hits in 6 1/3 innings on Saturday.
"First and foremost, he's been a good pitcher in the league for a long time," manager Aaron Boone said, according to MLB.com. "As he has worked hard behind the scenes, the confidence has followed."
Happ (12-8, 5.10 ERA) pitched brilliantly after being acquired from Toronto last season, going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts.
This season, Happ didn't record a win until his sixth start. His ERA hasn't dropped below 4.36 after any start.
With another strong performance on Thursday, Happ could knock his ERA below the 5.00 mark. The veteran left-hander is hopeful he can remain in the rotation during the playoffs, but he's not focused on that.
"If I can go out and feel like I felt (Saturday), I like my chances," he said. "They'll decide what they want to decide. Whenever they ask me to pitch, I'm pitching."
Boone has to sort out his pitching strategy for the postseason, though his deep bullpen provides some cover.
"I think it's fair to say that these are an important few weeks," he said.
In 11 career outings against Detroit, including 10 starts, Happ is 3-2 with a 5.25 ERA.
Sabathia (5-8, 4.93 ERA), who has been bothered by knee soreness, probably won't go the required five innings to pick up a victory. Sabathia has faced the Tigers 40 times in his career, posting a 21-14 record and 4.16 ERA.
Domingo German (17-4, 4.21 ERA) will be the first reliever out of the bullpen. He'll remain in a relief role through the postseason, as the Yankees want to limit his innings.
Left-hander Matthew Boyd (8-10, 4.57 ERA) will start the first game vs. Happ, while rookie right-hander Spencer Turnbull (3-14, 4.68 ERA) is scheduled to start for Detroit against Sabathia. Turnbull hasn't won a decision since May 31. He's dropped his last 10 decisions along with four no-decisions.
Turnbull has surrendered 19 runs in 14 1/3 innings over his last four starts, including a 1 2/3-innings stint in Oakland on Friday when he gave up four runs and walked three batters. He'll be facing the Yankees for the first time.
Boyd has posted victories in his last two starts. Most recently, he pitched on Sept. 5 at Kansas City and gave up three runs on 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings.
He collected 13 strikeouts when he faced the Yankees on April 3. Boyd only gave up one run in 6 1/3 innings that day but wound up with a no-decision. He's 1-2 with a 5.57 ERA in four career outings against the Bronx Bombers.
Detroit won the series opener 12-11 on Tuesday despite six Yankees homers.
"So we didn't beat them at their game. We beat them at our game," said Tigers infielder Jordy Mercer, who had the walk-off hit. "It doesn't matter which way you get them. They get them by the long ball. We get them by throwing a bunch of singles together and scoring runs."
--Field Level Media