ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - One moment, J.A. Happ was trying to work his way out of a second inning jam. The next, he lay at the base of the pitcher's mound, having just been hit in the face by a comeback line drive off the bat of Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings.
Coaches and players, the umpires, and nearly 11,000 fans in attendance looked on in stunned silence.
Trainers George Poulis and Mike Frostad, with the support of medical personnel, moved quickly to stabilize and immobilize Happ. They placed the pitcher on a stretcher.
Only then did the crowd make noise, rising in unison to give Happ a standing ovation. Conscious, Happ was able to raise his right hand and offer a reassuring wave.
The Blue Jays won the game 6-4. It was the club's third straight victory – first three-game winning streak of the season – and it assured the Jays of no worse than a split of the four-game series. Under normal circumstances that's a significant stat, considering Toronto had lost 17-consecutive road series to the Rays.
But it wasn't significant tonight. Not after what happened to Happ.
"It's devastating," said R.A. Dickey, who was in the dugout. "I could barely watch it. I've had experience with that on the field before, not getting hit myself but with another person getting hit. You don't know what to think, really. It paralyzes you a bit because you certainly can empathize because you've been out there that close to the hitter."
"It took us a few innings to regroup," said designated hitter Adam Lind. "The energy in the dugout was very sad. We weren't really in the mood. I think that was obvious. Then we got some hits and that got our mind off things that were bad and got our minds pointed in the right direction. And I think that's all it took. I think once that happened we started to run with it."
The bullpen did a masterful job over 7 2/3 innings. Aaron Loup and Steve Delabar chewed up 4 1/3 innings, leading to Casey Janssen working a perfect ninth for his ninth save. But it was Brad Lincoln who thrived under the most difficult of circumstances. He took over for Happ, allowing one inherited runner to score before recording the next seven outs virtually unscathed.
"You've just got to take what happened and think about it and then just put it behind you and still go out there and compete and play the game," said Lincoln. "Unfortunately that's part of the game, stuff happens like that, thoughts and prayers go out to him but you've still got to go out there and play the game."
The Blue Jays trailed 4-1 after two innings, Adam Lind's first homer of the season accounting for Toronto's run.
The score remain unchanged until the seventh when Colby Rasmus hit a two-run home run to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Back-to-back doubles by Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista brought home the tying run in the eighth and Maicer Izturis' third homer of the season, in the ninth, put Toronto ahead for good.
"We're playing good baseball, that's basically what it comes down to," said manager John Gibbons. "Another late-inning comeback; I tip my hat to them. The guys are playing good."
As early Wednesday morning, Happ is resting in a Tampa Bay area hospital. The Blue Jays say he is conscious and alert.
A series of tests, including a CT scan, were being performed late Tuesday evening.