Pitching in his home state for the first time since 2013, J.A. Happ looked more like the 20-game winner from a year ago than he has lately.
The left-hander had a season-high 10 strikeouts in seven innings, matching his longest start of the season, as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Chicago White Sox 5-1 on Wednesday.
“We had a big group here today, a lot of friends and family in town so it feels good obviously to get the win and get out of here but also to pitch well in front of them too,” said Happ, who had more than 20 friends and family members travel about 100 miles to Guaranteed Rate Field from Peru, Illinois.
Happ (4-8) gave up a run and six hits while walking one to get his first win since July 4. He last got through seven innings in his first start of the season on April 5.
Justin Smoak extended his hitting streak to nine games and reached base three times for the Blue Jays, who won two of three in a matchup of last-place teams. Steve Pearce and Josh Donaldson added solo home runs.
Happ struck out the side in his final inning and the Blue Jays won for the second time in his last eight starts and also won for the third time in four games.
The Toronto bullpen struck out the side in the eighth inning around two walks, as Dominic Leone, Aaron Loup and Joe Biagini preserved the lead. Roberto Osuna entered with two on and nobody out in the ninth inning, and set down three straight batters to earn his 27th save.
The Blue Jays were playing for the 20th straight day since the All-Star break and have a day off Thursday before a three-game weekend series against the AL-leading Houston Astros.
“I think we’re all excited for the off day,” Smoak said. “Twenty in a row after the break is definitely not easy, so it’ll be a happy flight to Houston.”
Derek Holland (5-11) gave up two runs and five hits with four walks in six innings. The left-hander came into the game with a 9.46 ERA in his past 10 starts.
‘Good start to build off’
“This is definitely a good start to build off,” Holland said. “Probably the only thing I would say is disappointing is four walks. That kills you from going later into the game, I should say. But I thought everything else was working perfect.”
Smoak drove in Donaldson with a double in the third inning to open the scoring. The all-star first baseman had homered in each of the first two games of the series.