Monday, July 2, 2018

Loaisiga Has Met Yankees' Expectations


Yankees starting pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga, the 23-year old rookie from Nicaragua, has impressed since he arrived on June 15, immediately drawing comparisons to Mariano Rivera.

That night, he dominated against the Tampa Bay Rays, as he threw five shutout innings, scattering just three hits and four walks, while striking out six, to earn the win.

Loaisiga was compared to Rivera by Rays Manager Kevin Cash and others because of his explosive delivery, his size, clear over-the-top motion, and pinpoint control.

His second start on June 20 against Seattle was a bit tougher, as he lasted just 3 2/3, allowing three runs on six hits and two walks, while striking out four in a game the Yankees eventually came back to win.

Last Monday night in Philadelphia, he responded by taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Phillies. He allowed just one hit and two walks, with eight strikeouts, to earn his second victory.

Like most prospects the Yankees are bringing up this season, Loaisiga has shown the composure of a veteran.

"I think he's been really good," Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of Loaisiga in his pregame press conference on Monday afternoon ahead of the rookie's start against Atlanta. "He's at least met our expectations of what we hoped to get from him, and the one hiccup in his second start where he wasn't as good, but bounced back really nice in his last start, and I thought he pitched a whale of a game in Philly.

"I think everyone's gotten a peek that didn't really know about him, has gotten a look atwhy we're so excited about him. This is a guy that I think is going to be a guy that has command over the long haul. His stuff is evident, the way the ball comes out of his hand, and I think already, a pretty good three-pitch mix that he commands pretty well.

"I don't think he's been affected by expectations or jumping to the big leagues all of a sudden. I think he's handled everything and all the outside stuff incredibly well."

On Monday night against Atlanta, Loaisiga sailed through the first two innings, looking like he did against Philadelphia.
Starting with the third inning, however, an inning that began with a solo home run by Johan Carmago, he had issued the second time through the Atlanta order.

In the fourth inning, he gave up three straight doubles to Nick Markakis, Kurt Suzuki, and Ronald Acuna, Jr., resulting in a pair of runs and a 3-2 Atlanta lead at the time.

With his pitch count at 92 (including 62 strikes) at the end of four innings, that was it for Loaisiga, who allowed three runs on five hits and no walks, while striking out three.

This line was nearly identical to his line in the Seattle start, while the line in his first and third starts mirrored each other. It seems as if a pattern is developing, but it could just be a young pitcher learning to throw in the major leagues.

Boone said of Loaisiga's outing, "I thought he threw the ball okay, but  just, again had trouble putting guys away. You know, if he gets ahead in the count, that pitch that is a ball out of the hand up here, you know, just continuing to work on making that pitch, you know, when he's trying to get a chase, when he's ahead in the count, starting it in the strike zone.

"They fouled off a lot of pitches against him, ran his pitch count up pretty high, so just had a hard time putting guys away when he had the opportunity."

Loaisiga was sent to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre after the game, and Boone said he could be back to start one of the games in the doubleheader next Monday in Baltimore.

The Yankees tied it at 3 in the bottom of the fifth, as Gleyber Torres singled and went to second on the throw. He then advanced to third when Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge walked, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius.

Speaking of Judge, he hit his 23rd home run of the season in the first inning, a solo shot that made it 1-0.

Torres was responsible for the Yankees' second run of the game when he doubled in the third inning, and advanced to third and scored on a pair of wild pitches to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead at the time.

After Loaisiga left, Jonathan Holder and Chad Green threw two innings apiece, followed by an inning each from Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances to preserve the 3-3 tie. 

In six shutout innings, the quartet out of the Yankee bullpen combined to allow just three hits and walk one, while striking out six.

David Robetson came on for the Yankees in the 11th, and he allowed a two-run homer to Ronald Acuna Jr. that barely cleared the fence in right field past the leap of Aaron Judge to make it 5-3 Atlanta.

Atlanta starter Anibal Sanchez threw six innings, in which he allowed three runs on six hits and two walks, and struck out four.

The Braves bullpen of Sam Freeman, Dan Winkler, Jesse Biddle, and A.J. Minter shut out the Yankees for the final five innings of the game, allowing just four hits and five walks, while striking out eight. 

Biddle threw two innings to the win to improve to 2-0, while Minter earned his fourth save by pitching a scoreless 11th in which he struck out Gardner and Gregorius.

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