J.A. Happ flirted with mediocrity in two-plus seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. Since they dealt him to Seattle in December, he's done about the same.
In his initial meeting since the trade, Happ looks to help the underachieving Mariners win three in a row for the first time in nearly two months Saturday against the Blue Jays.
Happ (4-5, 4.12 ERA) went 19-20 with a 4.32 ERA in 50 starts for Toronto before he was sent west for outfielder Michael Saunders. While knee problems have limited Saunders to nine games with the Blue Jays (49-49), Happ is trying to find the successful form that opened his Mariners' tenure.
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The left-hander went 3-1 with a 2.98 ERA in his first seven starts but is 1-4 with a 5.02 ERA in the last 11. However, he's 1-0 in his last three outings and pitched well on 11 days' rest Monday, allowing three runs in seven innings of a 5-4 loss at Detroit.
"I'm definitely trying to get back to keeping that aggressive attitude out there and trust that good things will happen," Happ told MLB's official website.
Happ has been significantly better at home, posting a 2.66 ERA in eight starts, but the worst one was his most recent. He gave up four runs, seven hits and three walks in four-plus innings while not factoring in the decision of another 5-4 loss to the Tigers on July 8.
He'll try to lead the Mariners (45-52) to a sixth consecutive home victory over Toronto after Friday's 5-2 win. Felix Hernandez threw seven solid innings, Nelson Cruz recorded his second three-hit game in three days and Mark Trumbo had a two-run homer to help Seattle win back-to-back contests for the first time since June 30-July 1.
The Mariners haven't won three straight - one shy of a season high - since May 25-27. They're also seeking back-to-back wins at Safeco Field for just the second time since May 12, having gone a major league-worst 12-20 at home.
One reason why is that Cruz has one homer and eight RBIs in those 32 games even though he's among the AL leaders in both categories. He's 3 for 18 with no homers and seven strikeouts against Blue Jays scheduled starter Drew Hutchison (9-2, 5.19).
The right-hander was scratched each of the last two days because of the flu, and if he's still unable to pitch, Toronto likely would need to make a roster move rather than start Mark Buehrle on three days' rest.
"We talked to him (Thursday) night and we thought he was going to be good," manager John Gibbons said. "He felt much better and then he got up, moving around feeling good, got to the ballpark a couple of hours before we got here (Friday) and was just really weak."
Hutchison gave up two runs in six innings of a 6-2 victory over Tampa Bay last Friday to improve to 7-1 with a 2.21 ERA in nine home starts. Though he has an 8.81 ERA in 10 road starts, Hutchison is 2-1 while receiving a major league-high average of 9.77 runs of support.
His only appearance against the Mariners came last season at Safeco when he gave up six runs in 5 2-3 innings of an 11-1 defeat.
Robinson Cano homered off him that day and is batting .444 with eight RBIs over Seattle's last seven games.
Toronto's Jose Bautista has hit four of his 21 homers in the last six games. A sixth-inning home run Friday is Bautista's lone hit in eight at-bats against the Mariners this season.