SEATTLE — J.A. Happ made a remarkable comeback from his serious head injury three months ago when he took the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays against the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday afternoon.
The Mariners spoiled it with their best comeback in more than two seasons, using a six-run fifth inning to overcome a five-run deficit for a 9-7 victory.
Humberto Quintero’s two-run homer was the key hit in the inning. The Mariners went on to their largest comeback for a victory since April 11, 2011, also against Toronto, when they were down 7-0 and won 8-7.
“They scored two runs early. We built a nice little lead,” said Jays manager John Gibbons, whose team took the first two games. “You expect to win those games. We didn’t pitch too well today.
“It was good to see (Happ) back there. He looked fine as far as velocity, everything looked good … just not enough strikes. He was too erratic.”
Happ made his first start since May 7, when he suffered a skull fracture and a sprained right knee after being struck behind the left ear by a line drive from Tampa Bay’s Desmond Jennings. Happ left the field on a stretcher, spent the night in the hospital and had three months of rehabilitation, primarily for the knee.
“It’s been a long road to get back, but at the same time I felt ready to help us win,” Happ said, “and frustrated that it didn’t work out today.”
Happ went four-plus innings, allowing seven hits and seven runs. He walked three, struck out two and didn’t get a decision.
“Obviously, not how I wanted it to go,” Happ added. “We should have won that game. We were ahead, scored seven runs early, and I wasn’t able to kind of keep us holding onto that. So not the way I would have written it up, not what I was hoping for. But looking forward to the next one already.”
Brandon Maurer (3-7), who allowed eight baserunners and no runs in 3 1-3 innings, earned the win.
Five Mariners relievers worked the final seven innings, allowing no runs and six hits. It’s the first time since Sept. 28, 2011, against Oakland that the bullpen has thrown at least seven scoreless innings.
Danny Farquhar worked an inning for his third save in five chances.
Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind hit back-to-back home runs in the Jays’ five-run third, their 30th and 14th, respectively. It is Encarnacion’s second straight 30-homer season.
Aaron Harang went just two-plus innings, allowing seven runs and five hits. He walked three and all scored in his shortest outing this season.
Presented with a 7-2 lead by the third inning, Happ couldn’t deny the fifth-inning rally.
It started with a two-base error by third baseman Brett Lawrie on Nick Franklin’s grounder that popped over his glove. Kyle Seager singled and Kendry Morales’ ground-rule double scored Franklin.
Happ’s day ended when he walked Michael Morse.
Aaron Loup (4-4) took over allowed one run on Michael Saunders’ forceout, two on Justin Smoak’s double and two on Quintero’s home run over the left-field wall, his second. He also had an RBI in the fourth.
“Things have to go your way,” Farquhar said. “Our big inning started with a ground ball to Brett Lawrie. It takes a funky bounce, the ball goes into left field, and boom, six runs. Baseball’s a funny game. You just can’t take anything for granted.”
Farquhar was originally drafted by Toronto in 2008, was traded away, traded back and eventually designated for assignment.
“I ended up here. It’s nice to face my old team. I’ve been itching for three days to get in that game,” said Farquhar, who has assumed the closer role the past two weeks. “I got in there, got the job done and I’m pretty pumped.”
The Mariners touched Happ for two runs in the first. Leadoff batter Brad Miller dribbled a single up the third-base line. Franklin followed with a RBI triple into the right-centre gap. That broke his 0-for-27 hitless drought.
Franklin came home on Kyle Seager’s right-side groundout.
Lawrie, born in nearby Langley, British Columbia, was 6 for 11 in the series and reached base eight times with a pair of RBIs.
Josh Thole, rushed into the starting role minutes before the game because catcher J.P. Arencibia was scratched with right knee soreness, had a two-run double.
Arencibia had an MRI after the game. He’ll be re-evaluated Thursday.
“Catchers deal with a lot of stuff throughout the whole year,” Arencibia said. “I’ve been dealing with it for a while. It’s something that today got a little worse.”
There were 15 walks issued by both teams, including a season-high nine by the Mariners staff.
NOTES: Mariners manager Eric Wedge paid a visit to the clubhouse before the game. He has missed the past 16 games after suffering a stroke July 22. He said he is still undergoing tests to get to full recovery and be able to handle the rigours of the job. He’s anxious to get back but there is no timetable for his return. . both teams have an off day Thursday. Mariners acting manager Robby Thompson plans to skip Erasmo Ramirez’s start Friday to maintain a five-day routine for his other starters. Blue Jays John Gibbons plans to keep all five of his starters on the same rotation. “These guys could all use the (extra) day,” he said. . Tests on Jays’ RHP Steve Delabar, placed on the 15-day DL Sunday, reveal inflammation in his right shoulder. Nothing serious, Gibbons said. . home umpire Dale Scott was hit hard on his face mast by a Jose Bautista foul ball in the second. He remained in the game for one inning before leaving. Todd Tichenor rotated from first in the third inning to replace him behind the plate.