NEW YORK — Loading the bases with no outs in the seventh on Tuesday afternoon, clinging to a two-run lead, Jonathan Loaisiga took a moment to himself on the mound.
The right-hander recently cruised through an eight-pitch sixth, returning to the rubber looking to record the final three outs in Game 1 of a split doubleheader against the Red Sox.
All of a sudden, after three singles in a row, Loaisiga's fifth save of the season seemed improbable with the top of Boston's lineup looming.
Taking a deep breath, Loaisiga buckled down, reminding himself what's been working for him all season long. A flyout and back-to-back strikeouts got the Yankees out of the jam, sealing a 5-3 victory and igniting an eruption from just under 40 thousand fans in the Bronx.
Getting Hunter Renfroe to swing through a 100-mph sinker for the final out, Loaisiga flashed some emotion, screaming and pounding his glove with his hand. After the game, he called the moment indescribable.
"Being on the mound at the moment in the game, with the game on the line and when you're able to come through, it's tough to put it into words," Loaisiga said through the team's interpreter shortly after the win. "It's something that you can only feel when you find yourself on the mound, pitching, knowing what on the line and it's hard to really describe."
His teammates flooded onto the field from the first-base dugout, swarming around the reliever to congratulate him and celebrate another nail-biting victory. As much as a scoreless seventh seemed like an impossibility when Loaisiga loaded the bases, his manager revealed postgame that he wasn't surprised in the slightest to see the reliever work out of the jam.
"We've seen it all year from him," Boone said. "We've put him in huge situations all year, we've leaned on him heavily, obviously. Been kind of waiting to see this guy for the last couple years and to see him develop into this kind of a pitcher has been exciting."
Tuesday marked Loaisiga's 19th scoreless outing in relief this season of four-or-more outs. Only one other pitcher in baseball—Boston's Garrett Whitlock—has accomplished that feat more times than the Nicaraguan flamethrower.
"He's a competitor," starter Jordan Montgomery said. "It's really hard [what he did in the seventh]. He trusted his stuff and just started filling the zone up and good things happened."
Over 60.2 innings this season, Loaisiga has posted a magnificent 2.37 ERA with 58 strikeouts. Of his 16 earned runs on the year, 12 have scored in three appearances. In other words, take out his trio of clunkers, and Loaisiga is having a historic season.
Five saves might not seem like a huge total, but all five have come this season, a sign that the organization has started to rely on the right-hander far more often in those late-game situations.
In the future, Loaisiga can certainly transform into even more of a dominant high-leverage reliever, but for right now, the 26-year-old is focused on racking up wins for his team. Battling through the seventh on Tuesday did just that.
"That's the most important thing," he said. "Getting a victory, no matter what."
- Andrew Velazquez Plays Hometown Hero In Yankees Win
- Yankees’ Gio Urshela Nearing Rehab Assignment
- Clint Frazier’s Season Is in Jeopardy After Setback on Rehab Assignment