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Loaisiga wins debut as Yanks blank Rays

Didi homers off Eovaldi; Sanchez clears bases with double in 8th
MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- Jonathan Loaisiga's unflappable demeanor helped him power through a loaded Yankees farm system, a quality the organization believed would serve him well at the highest level. Eyeing the Nicaraguan flags that dotted Yankee Stadium's seating area prior to his first pitch, the right-hander soothed his nerves by doing what got him to this point, filling the strike zone with a fastball.

Loaisiga may not possess the lengthy track record that other top prospects have compiled, but he continued to impress on Friday, making up for any relative inexperience by dripping with confidence and poise. Loaisiga struck out six over five scoreless innings, picking up the victory in his Major League debut as the Yankees defeated the Rays, 5-0, at Yankee Stadium.

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NEW YORK -- Jonathan Loaisiga's unflappable demeanor helped him power through a loaded Yankees farm system, a quality the organization believed would serve him well at the highest level. Eyeing the Nicaraguan flags that dotted Yankee Stadium's seating area prior to his first pitch, the right-hander soothed his nerves by doing what got him to this point, filling the strike zone with a fastball.

Loaisiga may not possess the lengthy track record that other top prospects have compiled, but he continued to impress on Friday, making up for any relative inexperience by dripping with confidence and poise. Loaisiga struck out six over five scoreless innings, picking up the victory in his Major League debut as the Yankees defeated the Rays, 5-0, at Yankee Stadium.

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"It has definitely been a tough road to get here," Loaisiga said through an interpreter. "I felt super excited. Getting to your goal, achieving your goal; it's a dream to pitch in the big leagues. Having the opportunity to do that and finally pitch in the big leagues is a dream come true."

Rated as the Yankees' No. 12 prospect by MLB Pipeline, the 23-year-old Loaisiga was the 15th Nicaraguan to appear in a big league game and the first Yankee. With his family huddling to watch every pitch on the internet from Managua, Loaisiga allowed three hits and issued four walks in a 91-pitch performance.

Video: TB@NYY: Gregorius belts a solo homer to right

The effort was supported by a third-inning homer from Didi Gregorius, who recalled playing two games behind Loaisiga last year while he served a Minor League rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Tampa.

"He attacked the zone, kept the hitters off balance, and nothing has changed for him," Gregorius said. "That shows you that he has a plan how to attack guys already. It shows you he has a really big heart and loves the game. He pitched like he was already here."

Gregorius hit his 14th homer -- and third in his past three games -- off former teammate Nathan Eovaldi, who also allowed a Giancarlo Stanton sacrifice fly before working into the eighth. Eovaldi left a bases-loaded jam for Jonny Venters, who surrendered a three-run Gary Sanchez double that broke the game open and snapped an 0-for-17 skid for the Bombers' backstop.

Video: TB@NYY: Sanchez doubles to right, clears the bases

"It definitely felt great," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "It's been a while since I've been able to contribute on the offensive side. Hopefully from now on, good things will come."

Manager Aaron Boone said he sensed Loaisiga was fatigued by a tough fourth inning, but he still was able to get through five frames to qualify for the win. He impressed the opponents as well; Rays manager Kevin Cash said that at one point, bench coach Charlie Montoyo compared Loaisiga to a young Mariano Rivera.

"Hopefully, he doesn't develop a cutter or anything," Cash said. "A talented young kid. He was very poised. The walks were sprinkled in there, but the stuff -- wow. What do you do against a young pitcher making his debut? It doesn't matter when you have that type of stuff. You are able to throw it at will."

Video: TB@NYY: Loaisiga on debut, Sanchez on clutch at-bat

Loaisiga will remain in the rotation as a placeholder while the club waits for Masahiro Tanaka to return from what is expected to be a month-long stint on the disabled list.

"For a first time out, I thought he competed really well and obviously he gave us everything we needed tonight," Boone said. "If I could've drawn it up, if he could've gotten us through five innings and to leave with a lead like that not giving up any runs, I would definitely have signed up for that."

Jonathan Holder, David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Adam Warren combined for four scoreless innings of one-hit relief, completing the Yanks' fifth shutout of the season. New York has won 12 of its past 15 contests, while Tampa Bay lost for the 11th time in 15 games, including eight consecutive losses on the road.

Video: TB@NYY: Loaisiga, Didi, Sanchez lift Yanks over Rays

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Rays' greatest threat came in the fourth inning, as they loaded the bases against Loaisiga via two singles and a walk. That drew pitching coach Larry Rothschild to the mound for a visit, and after a brief chat, Loaisiga struck out Christian Arroyo swinging in a five-pitch at-bat to pin all three runners aboard.

"He told me to breathe, take it easy, slow it down and execute one pitch at a time," Loaisiga said. "Just throw the ball the way you know how to. … It's something I've developed over the years, being able to stay calm in tough situations. I think it's a key in the game of baseball, to stay calm and do your job."

Video: TB@NYY: Loaisiga fans Arroyo, leaves the bases loaded

SOUND SMART
Loaisiga is the seventh Yankees pitcher since 1908 to record at least five scoreless innings in his first career game, and only the fifth Yankees starting pitcher to do so. Loaisiga joined Sam Militello (Aug. 9, 1992, vs. Boston) as the only pitcher -- starter or reliever -- to do so since 1943.

UP NEXT
The Yankees continue their series with the Rays on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET, when right-hander Luis Severino (9-2, 2.27 ERA) will make his 15th start of the season. Severino has been excellent at Yankee Stadium, where his 1.79 home ERA is the third-lowest in the American League. Right-hander Ryne Stanek (1-1, 2.76) was announced as the starter for a Tampa Bay bullpen day.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Yankees, Jonathan Loaisiga