Happ sticks it to Phillies

Earlier in the week, Rich Dubee had nothing ill to say.

"I think the world of J.A. Happ," the Phillies pitching coach said.

( Staff Photographer / Steven M. Falk )

It was hard not to forget the last time Happ was on this field before he returned with Houston this week. The lefthander was running sprints on the warning track in right field on a steamy July afternoon when Dubee walked over and told him to stop. Dubee put his arm around Happ and the two disappeared into a tunnel.

Happ's career as a Phillie was over. He was traded for Roy Oswalt.

And since that trade, Happ has fared well. He has a 3.45 ERA in six starts. That includes an ugly outing against St. Louis in which he allowed seven runs in one inning.

On Wednesday, Happ pitched 6 1/3 innings. The 27-year-old allowed two runs on five hits and two walks. He bested Roy Halladay.

"I'm a little relieved it's over," Happ said. "There were definitely some nerves going out there. I didn't know how I was going to feel. Like usual, once you get out there and get going, it was just another game."

Nerves? Like what sort of nerves?

"I felt pretty good to start the game," Happ said. "In the bullpen, there were some nerves. People were saying some nice things. I was trying not to focus on it but you can't help but hear some of that. That was really nice. It was good. It was nice to get out there and start strong."

Nice things?

"Yeah, nice things," Happ said.

"They were saying some nice things to me but I'm sure there are times when not-so-nice things are said. They are right on top of you. No complaints. The fans here have been great."

Happ was cheered when he walked to the bullpen to warm up prior to the game. The cheers continued when he was announced.

"That was awesome," Happ said. "They've been a class act to me. That was pretty special. Obviously, they didn't need to do that."

On Thursday, Happ will leave with the rest of his new teammates for a bus ride to New York as the Astros continue to play out the long days a third-place team endures during August and September.

His old friends will board a plane for San Diego, where the chase for a fourth consecutive postseason berth intensifies. Happ will be following the Phillies.

"After tomorrow," Happ said, "I wish them the best."