PHILADELPHIA — Jonathan Loaisiga showed himself to be an unlikely stopper.
And for one night calmed Yankees fans’ nerves regarding the rotation.
Making just his third big-league start since his promotion from Double-A, Loiasiga took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of a 4-2 victory over the Phillies on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park in front of 44,136 — more than a few of them fans of the Yankees.
“I think everyone got a little peek at why we’re so excited about him,” Aaron Boone said.
The 23-year-old Loaisiga, a native of Nicaragua whom the Yankees signed as a minor-league free agent in February 2016, was terrific in helping end a three-game skid, the Yankees’ longest of the season.
Featuring a nasty curveball/ slider that Austin Romine called more of a “hybrid” of the two pitches to go with a fastball that reached 97 mph, the righthander allowed one hit in 5 1⁄3 shutout innings in improving to 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA. He walked two and struck out eight, impressing his teammates most of all with a calm demeanor.
“That’s why I’m so impressed by what he’s doing, especially your first time getting up to the big leagues it’s kind of overwhelming,” said Aaron Judge, who hit his 20th homer of the season, a laser to left in the fifth inning that made it 2-0. “And especially tonight, a rowdy crowd but he’s just able to slow it down. Seeing that, at his age, it’s going to be fun to watch the rest of his career.”
Loaisiga, who retired the first 12 hitters he faced before walking Carlos Santana to start the fifth, said his fellow pitchers are the reason why.
“Just being around them, the way they execute one pitch at a time out there, gives me a sense of serenity when I go out there,” he said through his translator. “Being around them, seeing how they work, gives me that confidence.”
Loaisiga fell behind Jorge Alfaro 3-and-0 to start the sixth and the catcher eventually lined a 96-mph fastball opposite-field to right for a single.
Boone said Loaisiga, who threw 86 pitches, wasn’t going to go much above 90, so Alfaro’s hit saved him to a degree.
“I would have had to answer a lot tougher questions if he hadn’t given up that hit,” Boone said with a smile. “Because he was coming out. We were hoping to get him through that sixth.”
Pinch hitter Aaron Altherr worked a walk and Loaisiga found himself in his first jam. Leadoff man Cesar Hernandez grounded weakly to second to move the runners into scoring position. In came David Robertson, who worked out of that jam but allowed a run in the seventh. Dellin Betances pitched a scoreless inning and, in doing so, entertained the Yankees’ dugout with an at-bat in the eighth that resulted in a strikeout but had him swinging from his heels.
Aroldis Chapman gave up a solo homer in the ninth, the closer’s first homer allowed, but still earned his 23rd save.
The offense, without Gary Sanchez for at least the next 3-4 weeks as he landed on the disabled list Monday with a right groin strain, got an RBI double by Gleyber Torres, Judge’s homer and a two-run single by the suddenly hot Giancarlo Stanton, who has seven hits in his last eight at-bats. Before the game Boone said though “it’s a big deal” losing the slumping Sanchez, who has 14 homers and 41 RBIs, from the lineup, it could turn out to be a benefit for the catcher.
“Hopefully it’s a positive,” Boone said before the game. “Not only allowing him to get physically right, but hopefully it’s a little break for him mentally and he can refresh a little bit.”