The veteran right-hander will tune up for the playoffs Friday when the AL West champions continue a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium.
Loaiza (11-8, 4.84 ERA) did not earn his first victory until June 8 after he missed most of the first two months for Oakland (92-67) due to a strained muscle in his left side. His difficult year continued six days later when he was arrested on suspicion of reckless driving and driving under the influence, resulting in a night in jail.
Loaiza, though, has been able to put those problems behind him by pitching well the final two months. He’s 7-1 with a 2.97 ERA in 11 outings since the start of August.
Ace left-hander Barry Zito is slated to pitch the opener of the AL division series, and Loaiza will likely start Game 2 next week against Detroit or Minnesota. He’s pitching on three days’ rest Friday in order to prepare for that outing.
Loaiza is 12-2 with a 3.91 ERA in 12 career starts on three days’ rest and 0-1 with a 5.65 ERA in three starts against the Angels (87-72) this year.
The A’s will open the playoffs on the road after a 2-0 loss on Thursday eliminated any hopes they had of earning home-field advantage in the first round. Oakland fielded a lineup that featured mostly reserves for the second straight game and rested regulars Eric Chavez and Jason Kendall.
Los Angeles won for the 17th time in 24 games as John Lackey allowed four hits over eight innings and had a career-high 11 strikeouts. Francisco Rodriguez finished up with a hitless ninth for his major league-leading 46th save, eclipsing his career high from last season and tying the Angels’ record set by Bryan Harvey in 1991.
“Unfortunately, I’ve never had an opportunity to see Bryan Harvey pitch. But after looking at the stats, it looks like he was a pretty amazing pitcher,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a really special moment for me, to tie that record in my second year as a closer. Now I’ve got to go for it. I need one more, and hopefully in the next three days I’ll have an opportunity to break the record.”
Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero singled in the first inning for the fourth 200-hit season of his career.
Retiring Los Angeles slugger Tim Salmon pinch-ran for Guerrero and went 1-for-2 with two walks. The franchise’s all-time leader in home runs, Salmon remains stuck at 299 for his career, and the Angels want to give him every opportunity to hit his 300th in his final games.
Ervin Santana (15-8, 4.43) looks to maintain his career-long dominance of Oakland. He’s 5-1 with a 1.76 ERA in seven career outings against the A’s, including 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA in three starts this year.
Santana is 9-2 with a 3.21 ERA in 16 home starts this season, although one of the losses was to Oakland on July 31. Opponents are hitting .229 against Santana at Angel Stadium.
The right-hander dominated the A’s by giving up one run and two hits over eight sharp innings in a 7-1 victory on Sunday.
“He’s got a great sinking fastball,” said Oakland outfielder Milton Bradley about Santana. “He mixes his sliders and changeups really well.”