ARLINGTON -- Veteran lefty J.A. Happ certainly wasn't at his best during Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Friday afternoon, but as he has done so many times this year, he found a way to grind through and get the win.
Happ had two baserunners on base in each of the first four innings but managed to pitch into the sixth having allowed just one run. That was enough to preserve Toronto's early lead, help secure a 5-3 victory over Texas and take a 2-0 lead in the series.
In previous years, this was the type of outing that might have gotten away from Happ, but not in 2016. He finished the season ranked second in the AL with 20 wins for a reason, and when the bats supported him early, he was there to back them up.
"You go into a game knowing that at some point they're going to get their hits," Happ said. "Some of them are hard, some are soft. I think the key was keeping the ball in the ballpark. It was a battle. It seemed like a long five innings for me, but I just tried to focus with guys on base, continue to try to execute, and for the most part, we were able to get out of some of those situation."
The Blue Jays now head back to Toronto with a commanding lead in the best-of-five series. and the Rangers' lack of execution with runners in scoring position is one of the main reasons why. Texas went 2-for-18 in those situations on Friday afternoon, including 1-for-6 during the first four innings.
In the first inning, the Rangers put a pair of runners on base for Rougned Odor, who grounded out to first base. In the second, Nomar Mazara and Carlos Gomez each struck out looking to strand two more baserunners. In the third, Jonathan Lucroy grounded out with two men on. On and on it went. Whenever Happ needed to make a big pitch, he found a way to get the job done.
The lone real blemish of the afternoon came in the fourth inning, on Ian Desmond's single to center. That scored a run, but it was the only one Happ would allow as he scattered nine hits and walked one on his way to the victory.
"We had a lot of opportunities," Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "We had a lot of them. Almost every inning, we had a couple of guys on base, and we couldn't find a way to get them in. We had a couple of hits, but not enough. I mean, that's what you want; you want to be in those situations, but what we want to do is make sure you get those runs in."
Happ had to wait a long time between postseason appearances. His Pirates team lost last year's National League Wild Card Game, but Happ didn't participate, and he hadn't pitched in the postseason since 2009, with the Phillies.
The victory on Friday was the first of his postseason career. He also became the first pitcher since John Lackey in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series to go five or more innings allowing one run or fewer and nine or more hits.
"I didn't think he was as sharp as we normally see him, but you know, they battle you," manager John Gibbons said. "They have a tough lineup, and they battled him pretty good. They were getting a lot of hits. He's not a guy that necessarily gives up a lot of hits. That's a red flag. ... [But] he battled himself out of key innings, got some big strikeouts and big outs, no doubt."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.