David Ortiz, Red Sox Look to Take Advantage of J.A. Happ’s Struggles Against Lefties

David Ortiz, Red Sox Look to Take Advantage of J.A. Happ's Struggles Against Lefties Houston is not a town inhabited by household baseball names right now. But you've probably heard of J.A. Happ.

If so, you'll recall his one start against the Red Sox in 2009, when Rocco Baldelli, Nick Green and Josh Beckett — as fearsome an offensive trio as the Boston franchise has ever produced — took him deep.

You may also know that that start saw the lefty give up a season-high five runs. Aside from that outing, he was spectacular and finished his first full season in the big leagues with a 12-4 record and a 2.93 ERA for World Series-bound Philadelphia.

One notable aspect of Happ's rise to prominence that year was his ability to dominate left-handers. He held them to a .216 average and just three home runs in 42 innings.

Traded to Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal the following July, Happ has regressed as an Astro, in large part because he is no longer getting lefties out. In particular, his slider, a weapon in such matchups in years past, has been less effective.

That's one factor in Terry Francona's eagerness to get David Ortiz in at first base for Saturday night's encounter between the Sox and 'Stros.

Lefties have hit .328 against Happ in 2011. Had Happ been mowing them down like he was in '09 and even last year (.179 OBA for lefties in 2010), perhaps Francona would be reluctant to give Ortiz his second start of the National League road trip, despite Ortiz's success against left-handers this year.

Ortiz received his first start of the excursion against Phillies righty Vance Worley, whose numbers against left-handed bats are rather mediocre. Boston's designated hitter/first baseman is batting .337 against southpaws, but Francona usually likes to maintain as much opposite handedness in his matchups as possible. And if he is trotting Ortiz out there just once a series, he wants to do so when the matchup makes sense.

With Happ's inability to get many lefties out this year, it just might.

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