CHICAGO – Thursday was a big night for St. Bede alumnus J.A. Happ.
The New York Yankees starting pitcher was back in Illinois as he was on the mound at Guaranteed Rate Field against the Chicago White Sox.
At the same time he was trying to get a win for the Yankees – who are first in the American League East Division standings – he was being inducted into the first class of the NewsTribune's Illinois Valley Hall of Fame.
“It was pretty cool. It was a special night,” Happ said. “Coming back here, I always hear a lot of calls out there from people from the Illinois Valley who came up here. I hear a lot of people yelling in the crowd. A lot of family and friends come up here.
“Of course, I'd love to get the win tonight. It's still a special feeling. My parents were at the hall of fame ceremony on my behalf. I got a message that they had a great time. That's a really cool thing.”
Happ didn't get the win or a loss against the Sox as he left the mound after the fifth inning with the clubs tied. The White Sox went on to win 5-4.
In his five innings, Happ allowed five hits and four earned runs, while striking out two and walking four on 91 pitches (53 strikes).
The Yankees had a 4-0 lead after scoring two in the second inning as Did Gregorius singled and scored on a wild pitch and Brett Gardner scored off a Clint Frazier RBI single. The other two runs came in the fourth when Gardner hit a two-run home run.
Chicago had the bases loaded in the fourth after Tim Anderson singled and Happ walked both Eloy Jimenez and Yonder Alonso. But, the left hander from Peru was able to get out of the jam with no runs scored.
The fifth was not the same as Happ walked Yolmer Sanchez, gave up a single to Ryan Cordell and an RBI double to Leury Garcia. Anderson followed with a three-run dinger to tie the ball game at 4-4.
“I just didn’t find a way out of there like I did in the fourth. I kind of battled command a little bit for most of the night, but I was kind of able to get through it,” Happ said. “I think the lead-off walk was a big thing. Cordell hit a pretty good changeup. He went out and got it.
“The lead-off walk was the big issue, but I didn't rebound quick enough to get the heart of the order out after the damage was done.”
The Sox took the 5-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh on a solo home run from Garcia off of Yankees reliever Adam Ottavino.
The Yankees went through four pitchers, while the Sox brought five hurlers to the mound.
“I don't think it was fatigue,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said about Happ. “I just think he lost the strike zone. In the fourth inning, he struggled a little bit and needed a big pitch to get out of it. He got out of the fourth with the bases loaded but had a walk to start off the fifth.”
Happ is still 6-3 on the season, but his ERA went from 4.48 before the game to 4.66 afterward. He has 61 strikeouts in 75.1 innings pitched this season.
“You're always searching for consistency,” Happ said. “That's the hardest thing in this game. I feel like I'm making strides and have been pitching better. You keep grinding and plugging away. Physically, I feel good and that's the biggest thing.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.