NEW YORK — In the fourth inning, J.A. Happ became the latest pitcher to allow a long home run to Aaron Judge when his full-count fastball drifted over the plate and wound up traveling 118.4 mph and 456 feet over the left-center field wall.
An inning later, Happ encountered Judge again but this time in a more dangerous situation — with two on and the slugger representing the tying run.
At this point, Happ just let the adrenaline kick in and it worked as the left-hander highlighted six solid innings by striking out Judge as the Toronto Blue Jays snapped a five-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s hard not to,” Happ said. “It’s a huge situation in the game. If he gets a hold of one it’s a tie ballgame. I was frustrated I put myself in that position.”
Happ (3-5) continued to pitch well against the Yankees as he allowed one run and four hits and improved to 7-2 lifetime against them. He twice struck out Judge, recorded six strikeouts overall, walked one and threw a season-high 114 pitches.
None were as significant as the final one to Judge.
“It could’ve been the game right there,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “You know he’s dangerous. I mean we saw him hit that one, I think that ball was sitting on the corner, ball leaked over the middle of the plate a little bit, the one that he did hit out.”
Happ allowed a one-out infield single to Ronald Torreyes and then walked Brett Gardner with two outs. Following a mound visit with pitching coach Pete Walker, Happ got ahead in the count before it went full.
He then ended the at-bat by fanning Judge on a 95 mph fastball that was tipped into catcher Russell Martin‘s glove.
“I think he’s got great leverage, he’s able to get his arms extended,” Happ said of Judge. “He’s really good at hitting the ball on the plate down.
“He’s just obviously seeing the ball really well now. He’s on some kind of a streak.”
Everything Happ described occurred when Judge opened the fourth with his major league-leading 28th homer. It was his third-longest homer in terms of distance this season and he moved to within one shy of Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio‘s franchise rookie record set in 1936.
Still, it was only a solo homer as Happ made key pitches before and after Judge’s latest blast. He stranded a runner on second after the homer and finished his outing by striking out the side in the sixth after issuing a leadoff walk to Gary Sanchez.
“That was a big out with the way Judge has been swinging the bat and how he’s seeing the ball and what-not,” Toronto catcher Russell Martin said. “He made some big pitches and ended up getting the big out. Happ just kind of threw a little extra cheese on it. He got a piece of it, just not enough and I was able to hang on to it.”
Happ was not the only Toronto pitcher to get a key out against Judge.
After Jeff Beliveau ended the seventh with a strikeout of Gardner, Ryan Tepera opened a scoreless eighth by striking out Judge with another fastball. Roberto Osuna easily recorded his 20th save in the ninth as Toronto won for only the third time in nine games.
Toronto scored all the runs in the third inning against CC Sabathia.
The Yankees were hoping Sabathia (7-3) could provide at least five innings or 75 pitches in his return from missing three weeks with a strained left hamstring. Sabathia did neither, allowing four runs and three hits in 2 1/3 innings in a 63-pitch outing as New York lost for the 15th time in 21 games.
Sabathia lost for the first time in six starts and it was his shortest start since Aug. 23, 2015, against the Cleveland Indians.
“He just kind of lost the zone,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It seemed maybe he was overthrowing a little bit. He was just missing with some sliders, just missing and that’s really what led to the issues.”
NOTES: New York activated RHP Adam Warren, who missed 17 games with right shoulder inflammation. To get Warren and LHP CC Sabathia on the roster, RHPs Bryan Mitchell and Domingo German was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. … Toronto activated C Miguel Montero after acquiring him from the Chicago Cubs Monday. To get Montero on the roster, C Luke Maile was placed on the disabled list with right knee inflammation. … Toronto manager John Gibbons said RHP Joe Smith (right shoulder inflammation) is not likely going to be activated until after the All-Star break.