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, Fla. — Tropicana Field has not been kind to J.A. Happ.
Five years ago, Happ took a line drive directly to his head, hitting him behind his left ear and fracturing his skull. He fell to the ground hard enough that he strained ligaments in his knee, and it would be three months before he returned to the mound.
Happ will start for Toronto in Thursday’s series finale, and while he’s been back to the Trop nine times since his injury there, he’s won only once, in that same 2013 season, in just his third game back from injury.
Happ is off to a solid 8-3 start with a 3.71 ERA, and he’s 4-0 in his last five starts, taking a full run off his season ERA along the way. One of his three losses this season came against the Rays, giving up three runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings in a May 4 loss where he walked more batters (four) than he struck out (three). On Friday against Baltimore, he was especially sharp, throwing seven innings and allowing only two hits and a single unearned run.
And while he’s struggled at Tropicana Field Cheap Jaire Alexander Jersey
, his overall career numbers against the Rays are better, with a 3-4 record and 5.05 ERA — he has just one win in 10 appearances against Tampa Bay over the last four seasons.
Tampa Bay, trying to push through a rash of injuries to its starting pitching, continues to experiment regularly with “openers,” using relievers as part of bullpen days to start about half their games in recent weeks. Nowhere is the Rays’ desperation more glaring than with Thursday’s starter, Wilmer Font, who is already playing for his third team this season.
Font pitched six games with the Dodgers, then four with the Athletics, and he’s now made five appearances with the Rays. He’s 0-3 on the season with a 9.59 ERA, but in his five games with Tampa Bay, he’s fared much better, with a 3.24 ERA and 0-1 record. In those five games, he’s thrown 8 1/3 innings Cheap Josh Allen Jersey
, allowing three earned runs on five hits. In his last outing, also a makeshift start, he lasted into the third inning Friday against Seattle, but gave up two runs on two hits, getting five of his seven outs via strikeout.
Font has actually faced Toronto already this season while with Oakland — staked with the ninth inning and a 9-0 lead, he gave up a two-run home run to Yangervis Solarte.
The two American League East rivals went into Wednesday’s game within a half-game of each other in the standings, still well ahead of last-place Baltimore.
Toronto gets Thursday off before beginning an interleague stretch at home, with three games against the Nationals, then two against the Braves. The Rays, meanwhile, go on the road for the next week, with four games at the Yankees and three at the Astros, then returning home with seven of their next nine again against the Yankees and Astros.
Neither Jesus Aguilar nor Bud Norris wanted to let their team down.
Aguilar succeeded twice.
Aguilar homered to break up rookie Jack Flaherty’s no-hit bid in the seventh inning Minkah Fitzpatrick Youth Jersey
, then homered again in the ninth to lift the Milwaukee Brewers over the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 on Friday night.
Both teams got just three hits. The benches and bullpens briefly cleared in the eighth after Eric Sogard slid into St. Louis shortstop Yairo Munoz, who caught a wide throw on a bunt play in the eighth.
Norris (3-2) started the ninth for the Cardinals by striking out Travis Shaw. But, Aguilar followed with an opposite-field drive to right for his 16th home run.
”Don’t get a strikeout. Don’t get a strikeout,” Aguilar said about digging in against Norris. ”That’s why I was kind of overaggressive, I think. I got lucky to hit that pitch.”
Norris, speaking in front of his locker in the subdued Cardinals clubhouse, owned up to the mistake.
”I yanked one pitch, and he hit it,” Norris said. ”That’s the game.”
It was another tough loss for the Cardinals, who have lost nine of the last 12.
”Watching them walk us off, that’s hard,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. ”Jack did everything he could possibly do.”
Corey Knebel (1-0) pitched the ninth for the NL Central leaders.
With one out in the seventh, Aguilar drove an 83 mph slider from Flaherty into the Brewers’ bullpen in left Cole Beasley Jersey
, where reliever Jeremy Jeffress caught the ball on the fly. A woman who was knitting – it appeared to be crochet, actually – in the front row behind home plate barely flinched as Aguilar connected.
”He got that ball almost off the ground,” catcher Yadier Molina said. ”We’ve got to give him some credit.”
Aguilar tipped his cap to Flaherty.
”He was dominating the strike zone tonight, and I think we got lucky,” he said. ”We tied the game in the moment. It’s a new game, and we’re moving forward, thinking we’re going to win this game.”
Flaherty matched a career high by striking out 13 in seven innings, allowing just one hit. The Cardinals played stellar defense behind him after giving up six unearned runs with a season-high four errors in Thursday’s 11-3 loss to Milwaukee. Munoz robbed Jonathan Villar of a base hit in the fifth with a nice running backhand stab of a liner tailing away from him.
”That was unbelievable,” Molina said of Flaherty’s performance. ”Good pitching, good effort. Everything was working for him. We didn’t hit enough to get him the win tonight.”
Matt Carpenter walked, advanced on a sacrifice by Harrison Bader and scored on Marcell Ozuna’s liner up the middle in the third.
Brewers starter Junior Guerra allowed one run and three hits with four walks and seven strikeouts in five-plus innings.
Cardinals: INF Paul DeJong (left hand fracture) took batting practice and is anxious to return. ”It looked like he didn’t miss a beat, but we’re going to have to slow down and make sure we’re following the program,” manager Mike Matheny said.
Brewers: LF Ryan Braun missed his second consecutive game after receiving a cryotherapy injection in his troublesome right thumb Wednesday in Los Angeles. … LHP Wade Miley (right oblique strain) made a rehab start for Double-A Biloxi. He went two innings and allowed a run on three hits and struck out three.
Each team struck out 15 times and each one seemed to bring consternation with plate umpire Tim Timmons.
”When the pitchers keep putting the balls on the corners Derwin James Chargers Jersey
, there’s going to be some disagreements,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. ”There were a lot of balls put on corners tonight.”
Tommy Pham, batting second, was ejected by Timmons after Pham took a called third strike in the first. He continued to bark about it from the dugout before being tossed for the first time in his career. Bader replaced Pham in center field.
Cardinals: RHP Miles Mikolas (7-2, 2.69 ERA) makes his third start against the Brewers this season. He won 8-4 in his Cardinals debut on April 2.
Brewers: RHP Chase Anderson (5-6, 4.54 ERA) makes his second start this season against the Cardinals. He is 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA in 10 career outings, including a no-decision April 3 at Miller Park.