Happ gives struggling 'pen rest in 'huge outing'

Seattle lefty allows 2 runs in 7 1/3 innings to earn first win

Happ gives struggling 'pen rest in 'huge outing'

SEATTLE -- With a rotation that had the highest ERA in the American League at 5.90 and a bullpen that had coughed up leads the previous two nights, the Mariners received the perfect tonic on Wednesday from fifth-starter J.A. Happ in a 3-2 victory over the Astros.

Happ delivered 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball, continuing his early season excellence in his first season with Seattle, as he evened his record at 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA.

"My God. Prayer works," Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said with a smile after Happ stepped up to snap the Mariners' two-game losing streak and gave the bullpen a breather heading into Thursday's off day. "He really pounded the zone and was outstanding again."

"Huge outing," said catcher Mike Zunino. "Our bullpen has been out there quite a bit the last few games. So it wasn't really talked about, but I think he knew he wanted to go out there and get us through as many as he could. He had great command down in the zone and his two-seam and changeup were great. He got a lot of early contact with that and it allowed him to pitch into the eighth."

After giving up a leadoff home run to Chris Carter that cut the lead to 3-2 and then allowing a single to Colby Rasmus, Happ pitched out of trouble in the seventh with a double-play grounder by Jake Marisnick and then a flyout by Jose Altuve on the next pitch. He then got the first batter in the eighth before McClendon called on Yoervis Medina.

The Safeco Field crowd roared in appreciation as Happ left the field, knowing the lift he'd provided a pitching staff badly in need of some positive results.

"To get the first win and an ovation like that coming off the field was awesome," Happ said. "It makes you wish you could do that all the time."

Happ's sweet defense

The 32-year-old has been very consistent, allowing two runs or less in each of his first three starts.

"He competes," McClendon said. "He knows what he's doing out there and you trust him to follow a game plan and he did that tonight to a T."

Happ's only big mistake seemed to be the fastball he left over the plate to Carter, who crushed it over the center-field fence.

"It was down, but it caught a little bit too much of the heart of the plate," said Happ. "It was a 3-1 count and I was trying to stay aggressive on him. He's a strong man. I don't know if you're supposed to be able to do that to that ball, but he did. That was a good swing."

The rest of the night was Happ's. And the Mariners were happy to see it.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.