Mariners lefty struggles with location, allowing six hits and recording seven outs
By Alejandro Zúñiga
CLEVELAND -- J.A. Happ began his Thursday afternoon by toiling through a 29-pitch first inning, and the outing only faded from there for the Mariners left-hander.
Happ, who hadn't taken a loss since April 17, struggled with his command and lasted just 2 1/3 innings in Seattle's 6-0 loss at Progressive Field. It was only the second appearance this year in which he has been pulled before the fifth inning.
The 32-year-old escaped the first frame unscathed despite surrendering a walk and a single, but he looked just as shaky in the second, allowing a leadoff double to Brandon Moss and a sharp single to Zach Walters to bring home the game's first run. Michael Brantley and Ryan Raburn both reached with nobody out in the third, and Moss followed a Yan Gomes strikeout with a broken-bat bloop into shallow center field to chase Happ.
A batter later, Giovanny Urshela recorded his first Major League hit and RBI off reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, and Moss scored on Roberto Perez's two-run single to finalize Happ's line.
"He just didn't have his best stuff," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "I think they got the pitch count up with a lot of foul balls. First two innings, I think he had 67 pitches. ... After that, his day was pretty much numbered. He was close to 80 [pitches] when we took him out, too.
"I don't think anybody in baseball is going to let his pitcher go out there and throw 90 pitches in three innings. You just can't do that."
Four of the six hits Happ allowed came with two strikes, an anomaly for the left-hander. Before Thursday, he had converted 81 percent of two-strike counts into outs, well above the MLB average success rate of 75 percent.
"You feel like you make your pitch, and then they foul it off, and then you're battling and continuing to try to make your pitches," Happ said. "It certainly makes it more difficult."
The location issues haven't been customary, either. Happ had allowed two runs or fewer in eight of 11 starts this year, and also entered with the best control of his career, averaging just 1.9 walks per nine innings. He issued two free passes Thursday, both to leadoff hitter Mike Aviles.
"It's certainly frustrating," Happ said. "I felt like I threw a lot of strikes the first hitter of the game. But you have to make adjustments, and like I said, they did a good job of taking some good pitches and fouled a lot of pitches I felt like I was making."
Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.