MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — J.A. Happ was skipped in his previous turn in Minnesota’s rotation, when virus protocols prompted postponements of three straight games for the Twins.
Back on the mound after a nine-day break, the left-hander pitched like he never wanted to leave.
Happ lost his bid for a no-hitter when Jacob Stallings doubled with one out in the eighth inning, and the Twins beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0 on Friday night.
“You use everything around you for motivation,” Happ said, “so I was ready.”
Happ, in his first season with the Twins, was immediately removed by manager Rocco Baldelli with a two-run lead and replaced by Tyler Duffey.
“There was going to be no hesitation to let him finish the game if there were still no hits on the board,” said Baldelli, who pulled José Berríos from a no-hitter after six innings at Milwaukee in the second game of the season, when the Twins also won 2-0 with a one-hitter.
Willians Astudillo and Jake Cave each hit their first home runs of the season for Minnesota, spoiling another stellar start by JT Brubaker (2-1). The right-hander finished seven innings with five hits and no walks allowed.
The 38-year-old Happ (1-0) walked two batters, both in the second, and struck out three. He threw 95 pitches, but only 51 strikes, and managed to lower his ERA after three starts to 1.69 despite a slew of 1-0 and 2-0 counts.
“He was just missing barrels,” Stallings said.
Not so much to Stallings on that full-count, four-seam fastball in the eighth that Pittsburgh’s catcher stroked to left field to snap an 0-for-19 skid.
“I feel like in that situation all the pressure is on the pitcher,” Stallings said. “I just wanted to make him work.”
Duffey walked Wilmer Difo next, but he struck out Adam Frazier with runners at…