“I always used to see it on TV, now I’m here and I’m part of it,” said Loaiza, who stuck around in the dugout to see the Yankees rally for an 8-6, 11-inning victory over Oakland on Wednesday night.
Loaiza will try to continue a dominant stretch of pitching by Yankees starters as New York tries for a four-game sweep of Toronto in the debut of new Blue Jays manager John Gibbons.
Acquired just prior to last weekend’s trade deadline in the deal that sent enignatic Cuban right-hander Jose Contreras to the Chicago White Sox, Loaiza never appeared to get comfortable Wednesday, surrendering five runs and six hits over six innings with four strikeouts and four walks.
“It looked like he tried to be too perfect,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “The thing that hurt him on the three-run homer was that two guys were on from walks. That comes back to haunt you.”
However, the veteran right-hander was spared a loss when Gary Sheffield blasted a game-tying two-run homer off Oakland closer Octavio Dotel in the bottom of the ninth. Alex Rodriguez then hit a walk-off two-run blast in the 11th for the victory.
Despite the stirring come-from-behind win, Loaiza is still anxious to show his teammates he can contribute to their stretch drive toward the postseason.
“I wanted to win … bad,” he said. “I’ve just got to wait for my next start.”
After Loaiza’s shaky outing, which marked the 18th straight time a New York starter failed to go at least eight innings, Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, Orlando Hernandez and Jon Lieber each went eight to extend New York’s winning streak to five games.
Lieber, who may be the odd-man out of New York’s rotation once injured right-hander Mike Mussina comes off the disabled list, yielded two runs and four hits Sunday as the Yankees rolled to an 8-2 triumph.
Loaiza, who won nine games for the White Sox to make the AL All-Star team, has managed just one victory over his last six outings while surrendering at least four runs in his last eight starts.
The Blue Jays have been outscored 45-14 during a five-game losing streak, and have dropped seven of eight meetings to the Yankees this year, with 11 more scheduled against the defending AL champions.
Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi fired manager Carlos Tosca after Sunday’s defeat, replacing him with interim skipper Gibbons, the Blue Jays’ first-base coach.
“We have six or seven weeks left in the season and the team showed signs of not playing hard,” said Ricciardi, who hired Tosca on June 3, 2002. “We have an obligation to try and do as well as we can. It wasn’t an easy decision. It never is when you have to tell someone who does what he loves that it’s being taken away from him.”
Tosca finished with a 189-191 record in just more than two seasons.
Gibbons spent seven seasons managing in the New York Mets’ organization. He is in his third season with Toronto, first as the team’s bullpen coach and then coaching first base. The former catcher played in just 18 big league games for the Mets after being the team’s first-round selection in the 1980 draft.