New York Yankees starting pitcher J.A. Happ throws a pitch in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on August 19, 2018 at Yankee Stadium in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
J.A. Happ has been splendid since joining the New York Yankees -- so good that he is undefeated.
Happ looks to stay undefeated as a Yankee on Monday night when he pitches in the opener of a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
Since being acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays on July 26 for Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney, Happ is 5-0 with a 3.10 ERA in seven starts. He also is a leading candidate to get the ball should the Yankees hold onto their current spot in the standings and host the American League wild-card game.
Overall, the 35-year-old free-agent-to-be is 15-6 with a 4.00 ERA in 26 starts this season, his last under a three-year, $36 million contract signed with the Blue Jays ahead of the 2016 season.
His resurgence since donning pinstripes has led some to wonder whether he'd be open to returning to New York next season. It is a notion Happ isn't ready to address just yet, but also hasn't completely ruled out.
"I'd hate to get too far into that, but the one thing that I'll say is, I've been impressed since I came over here with how things have worked so far, and all the baseball-related things have been a positive," Happ told reporters last week. "So I think I'd be foolish to cross anybody off the list. But, yes, certainly, judging by how the first month has gone, it would be a place that I for sure would consider coming back if there was interest."
Happ bounced back from a rough outing against the Detroit Tigers to hold the A's to a run and two hits in six-plus innings on Tuesday. The Yankees are 3-3 on their nine-game trip and 2 1/2 games ahead of Oakland in the wild-card race.
The Twins will still be without former Yankee Tyler Austin. The first baseman missed Minnesota's weekend series with the Kansas City Royals because of back stiffness. He's expected to take batting practice Monday but isn't likely to start against the Yankees, who dealt him to the Twins on July 30 for right-hander Lance Lynn.
In 20 games since, Austin posted a .243 average (17-for-70) with seven home runs and 11 RBIs along with an .865 OPS. He was sidelined last week, though, by a bout of back tightness that kept him out of action during a weekend series with the Royals.
Twins manager Paul Molitor is optimistic that Austin will return to the lineup sometime during the series.
"Obviously, I probably wouldn't play him right out of the gate after a couple of days off," Molitor said. "Hopefully, we'll see him before the end of that series. He's heading in the right direction."
Miguel Sano will be out for at least the opener, too, as he waits for his bruised left knee to show improvement. Sano injured it last week while sliding into second against the Astros and also sat out the Royals series.
An MRI showed no structural damage to the knee, but the Twins are taking their time with the third baseman.
"We're hopeful," Molitor said. "Each day hopefully he has a little less soreness he has to be concerned about and can start trying to do some things on the field."
Right-hander Kyle Gibson gets the nod for Minnesota, which is 3-7 in its last 10 games after Williams Astudillo hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning of a 3-1 win on Sunday.
After posting a 5.28 ERA in August, Gibson bounced back with a solid showing against the Astros last week, allowing just two runs -- solo home runs -- in seven innings.
Gibson is 1-4 with a 7.71 ERA in seven career starts against the Yankees.