Loaisiga slams door: 'We've seen it all year'

August 17th, 2021

NEW YORK --  surveyed the scene from the back of the Yankee Stadium mound, a Red Sox runner standing at every base. It was another high-stress situation for a Yankees bullpen that has seemed to endure one in almost every game -- and a challenge that the reliever believed he could meet.

Loaisiga navigated out of that bases-loaded, no-out jam, inducing a flyout and striking out the next two hitters to seal the Yankees’ 5-3, seven-inning victory over the Red Sox in the first game of a day-night doubleheader on Tuesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

“We’ve played more than our share of really close ones,” said manager Aaron Boone. “The good thing is, I think our guys are really comfortable in those situations, whatever the outcome may be. 'Lo' was great; he didn’t flinch. You could just see his confidence out there, like, ‘I’ve got this.’”

The Yankees (67-52) have won four straight and 11 of 14, closing within one game of both the Red Sox (69-52) and Athletics (68-51), who are tied for the two American League Wild Card spots.

Having pitched a spotless sixth, Loaisiga made the Yankees sweat as he surrendered inning-opening hits to Kyle Schwarber, Christian Vázquez and Alex Verdugo -- none registering hard contact. Loaisiga’s final pitch was a 99.6 mph sinker that Hunter Renfroe waved through, and the right-hander unleashed a primal scream to celebrate.

“We’ve seen it all year from him,” said Boone. “We’ve put him in huge situations all year and have leaned on him heavily. We’ve been waiting to see this guy for the last couple of years, and to see him develop into this kind of pitcher has been exciting, but I’m not surprised anymore.”

New York’s patience was rewarded in the fifth inning, when Luke Voit lifted a go-ahead, two-run single into shallow center field. Voit’s bloop hit followed one-out walks by Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo as the Red Sox were burned by an ineffective bullpen display, with Garrett Whitlock and Josh Taylor combining to fill the bases.

Giancarlo Stanton came off the bench to lace a 116.2 mph RBI single, extending New York’s lead as it batted around in the frame.

“I feel like we’re seeing that a lot now with our guys,” Boone said. “A lot of heavy at-bats. The more we can do that, the more we put ourselves in position to bust through. I think the guys are taking a lot of tough team at-bats right now.”

The Yanks rallied after left-hander Jordan Montgomery permitted three runs over 4 2/3 innings in his return from the COVID-19 injured list.

Xander Bogaerts stroked a two-run single in the third inning and Vázquez hit a go-ahead homer in the fifth off Montgomery, who scattered five hits, walked two and struck out six.

“I just wanted to see when I would hit a wall,” Montgomery said. “I’m pretty happy with how I threw the ball. I got tired in the fourth and fifth innings, but my stuff was pretty good.”

Andrew Velazquez, a product of the Morris Park section of the Bronx, drilled a two-run single in the second inning -- his first RBIs in a Yankees uniform. Velazquez said that he had about 11 friends and family members on hand in Section 214 on Tuesday.

The shortstop’s hit accounted for the damage off Boston right-hander Tanner Houck, who permitted two runs and five hits over four innings.

“Another day, just better seats,” Velazquez said, joking. “It was a combination of a lot of things; a lot of hard times in baseball, but a lot of good, too. That one hit alone made everything worth it.”