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Happ fans eight over six dominant frames

TORONTO -- J.A. Happ was everything the Toronto Blue Jays could have asked for on Friday as he helped himself solidify a spot in the starting rotation.

The left-hander held the Texas Rangers to two hits, one walk and one run while striking out eight in six innings as the Blue Jays came away with a 3-2 win before 26,816 at Rogers Centre.

He was perfect and dominant in the first three innings, striking out seven of nine hitters in his third start with the Blue Jays.

"When you look at the first three innings, that's as good a three innings as you're going to see anywhere," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "He got a number of pitches up in the zone for a swing and miss. He had a very good fastball tonight, he mixed in his changeup and breaking ball in good spots. He was in complete command."

And he got all the offense he needed on a two-run homer by Edwin Encarnacion in the first inning and a run-scoring single from Rajai Davis in the fifth. They came against right-hander Yu Darvish (12-9), who struck out 10 while allowing three hits over seven innings.

"Coming in today, I wanted to throw everything with conviction," Happ said. "That was my goal against a lineup like this. I wanted to get beat with my best stuff. [Catcher] Jeff [Mathis] did a great job back there calling a game. We kind of went with my strengths and what was working at the time."

"We just couldn't get on Happ," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "If we could have got on Happ a little bit, it would have been a situation where we could have won the ballgame with the way [Darvish] threw tonight. [Happ] hid the ball well, had a little cut on it."

"I think overall, from the beginning, I don't think my fastball had a lot of life to it," Darvish said through an interpreter. "But more than not, overall, I was able to keep the ball down with my cutter, slider, all my other pitches. I think I was able to stay down and be effective."

Happ (9-10) won his second straight start after losing his first one with the Blue Jays. His first four outings for Toronto after he was acquired in a trade with the Astros on July 20 were in relief. He lost his first start on Aug. 7 at Tampa Bay and won his second start on Sunday against the Yankees.

Happ said he feels more comfortable as a starter.

"I'm feeling much better," he said. "It's nice to get back on a routine. In our minds, it's a little different being in the bullpen a little while. I'm definitely in a better place physically as a starter."

Encarnacion, who did not play Thursday because of a sore left shoulder, made an emphatic return to the lineup with a two-run home run in the first inning. His 31st homer of the season followed a walk to Kelly Johnson and gave the 29-year-old slugger 82 RBIs.

Happ struck out the side in the second and third innings. His run of six consecutive strikeouts -- which equaled a club record done twice before -- and his bid for a perfect game ended with a walk to Ian Kinsler to lead off the fourth.

"I think we did a good job trying to keep them off- balance," Happ said. "We used a lot of fastballs early in the game and a couple of changeups as well. I wanted to throw everything with conviction along with the cutter, something I don't throw with enough conviction, and tonight I was able to."

"He can be overpowering when you look past the number on the radar gun," Farrell said. "He's got some deception; he's got late life up in the zone."

Michael Young and David Murphy had the Rangers' first hits of the game on consecutive singles to center to begin the fifth. Geovany Soto sacrificed them to second and third, and Craig Gentry's groundout to second put Texas (68-50) on the board. Davis hauled in Mike Olt's drive to the wall in left field to end the inning.

Toronto (56-63) got that run back in the bottom half of the frame. Anthony Gose tripled with two outs on a broken-bat bloop to center that bounced away from a diving Gentry. Davis singled to center for a 3-1 lead.

"I don't know if I've seen a broken-bat triple before, but some kind of electrifying speed with Gose on the basepaths," Farrell said.

Right-hander Steve Delabar took over for the Blue Jays in the seventh and walked his first batter, Adrian Beltre, who took third on Murphy's one-out single. Delabar rebounded with a strikeout of Soto.

Pinch-hitter Nelson Cruz walked to load the bases. Olt worked the count to 3-2 before his grounder down the third-base line was botched by Omar Vizquel for a run-scoring error. Brandon Lyon came in with the bases still loaded and ended the inning by getting Kinsler to ground out to short.

Aaron Loup, Brad Lincoln and Casey Janssen, who picked up his 16th save, joined the parade of relievers.

Janssen said he enjoyed the view of Happ's work from the bullpen.

"It was impressive," Janssen said. "He commanded the zone really well. He was throwing that high strike that seemed like it kind of snuck up on the hitters. I think he's getting more comfortable here, and it's showing in his performances."

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