Everyone knows the Yankees are in the market for a starting pitcher, but the answer to their dilemma may be right under their nose.
After the first two games of this series against the Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays Manager Kevin Cash thinks so. “Two impressive young arms (Domingo German on Thursday) that we’ve seen on back to back nights.” That was Cash following rookie right hander Jonathan Loaisiga’s impressive major league debut. The Nicaraguan born Loaisiga tossed five scoreless innings to key a 5-0 Yankee win at the Stadium Friday night.
The 23-year old displayed an impressive change up and slider go along with a 97 MPH fastball that had late life. “Everyone got a peek at the stuff and I thought he competed really well,” Manager Aaron Boone said after the game.
Tampa Bay did not get a whole lot of good swings against Loaisiga but when they did stage a rally, the right hander was up to the challenge. In the fourth, the Rays had runners at first and third with two out when Loaisiga used that slider to strike out Christian Arroyo, a pitch that caught his Manager’s eye. “When he had to make a pitch there in the fourth, when he really got in a little bit of trouble, he buckled down and made a pitch and got a huge out to get out of that inning,” Boone said.
Coming into the game, Loaisiga had issued only four walks in 45 innings pitched in the minors but he didn’t allow four walks in five innings to faze him as he was able to work out of trouble. “I know the walks came in but the fastball was around the zone enough that you had to respect all of the off speed pitches and respect the fastball command,” Cash said. Loaisiga agreed that his fastball command was key. “It was what helped me get through all those innings tonight,” he said through an interpreter.
Loaisiga was tiring but he was able to make it through five innings as he retired Jake Bauers on a ground out to second with his 91st and final pitch of the game. Boone said you couldn’t have penned a better script for a major league debut. “If I coulda drawn it up, if he (Loaisiga) coulda got us through five innings and to leave with the lead like that, not giving up any runs, I woulda definitely signed up for that,” he said.
Cash went so far as to compare Loaisiga to a former Yankee and a future Hall of Famer. “He (Loaisiga) looked like a young Mariano Rivera, so hopefully he doesn’t develop a cutter or anything,” the Rays Manager said. “There were some similarities. Don’t give him any ideas though, he doesn’t need to be pitching in the ninth inning anytime soon.”
The other good news of the evening, besides the win, was Gary Sanchez busting out with a bases clearing double, past a diving Johnny Field in right field, to break the game open in the eighth. Boone is hoping it’s the start of something big for his struggling slugger. “Hopefully this take a little bit off his shoulders and before long, we can look back on this and it’d be a bump in the road in the season for him.”
The Yankees backed Loaisiga with some offense off of ol’ friend Nathan Eovaldi, who was facing his old team for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery. Didi Gregorius drove a hanging slider into the right field seats for a 1-0 lead in the third and added one in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Giancarlo Stanton. Eovaldi came up two outs short of his first career complete game. Reliever Johnny Venters allowed three inherited runners to score on Sanchez’ double which tarnished a pretty good outing from Eovaldi.
The Yankees continued their dominance of the Rays at Yankee Stadium. With Friday night’s win, the Yankees have won 17 of their last 21 against Tampa Bay in the Bronx. “Yeah, we gotta find ways to win. It’d be good for a lot of people in this clubhouse to win a couple of ballgames here,” Cash said.
The Yankees have struck gold with some of their young, positional players. Might they be on the verge of a similar result with some of their upcoming young arms? Stay tuned.