White Sox 9, Yankees 4
Seven months ago he was just trying to land a job, a non-roster invitee to spring training. Now he’s a 20-game winner, a milestone even some of the best pitchers never reach.
“It’s really great,” said Loaiza, who became the fifth 20-game winner in the major leagues as he led the Chicago White Sox over the New York Yankees 9-4 Wednesday.
“I want to finish the season strong. Now that I’ve got my 20th win, I want to go for 21. I want my teammates to leave happy when they see me on the mound on Sunday. Play hard and give it the best we’ve got.”
Loaiza is Chicago’s first 20-game winner since Jack McDowell in 1993. He also joins Fernando Valenzuela and Teddy Higuera as the only Mexican-born pitchers to win 20.
While Loaiza savors his landmark victory, Mike Mussina will have to wait until next year for another shot at his. The White Sox got to Mussina for eight runs in the sixth inning, spoiling his second bid for his 200th career victory.
“I’m fortunate to be at 199,” said Mussina (17-8), who had won his previous three decisions. “I will be 35 in a couple of months and I’m sitting at home with almost 200. I don’t feel too bad about it.”
Still, the Yankees wanted to get Mussina No. 200, especially after Hurricane Isabel washed out his first try. The Yankees were tied 1-1 with Baltimore last Thursday when the game was called in the fifth inning because of a steady rain and the imminent arrival of winds up to 35 mph.
Mussina’s start was pushed back a day—making him likely to pitch Tuesday’s postseason opener—so this was his last shot this year at 200. Despite a quick turnaround from Tuesday night’s game—which clinched a sixth-straight AL East title for New York—all but one of the Yankees regulars were in the lineup.
Even catcher Jorge Posada, who normally sits when there’s a day game after a night game, started.
“I wanted to be there for Mike,” Posada said. “He had the chance to win 200, and I didn’t want to miss it.”
But as much as the Yankees wanted to win for Posada, the White Sox wanted to win that much more for Loaiza. New York is at least going on to the playoffs. After being eliminated Tuesday night, the White Sox only have personal achievements to play for.
And Loaiza is a special case. He didn’t sign with the White Sox until late January, and came to spring training just hoping to land the fifth spot in the rotation.
Instead he’s been Chicago’s ace, a steadying force in a tumultuous season.
“He deserved it,” Valentin said. “The way he’s pitched all year, he’s been one of the best.”
Loaiza (20-9) had lost his previous three starts, but he was solid against the Yankees. After allowing those three runs in the second, he gave up just two more hits. He struck out seven without allowing a walk in six innings.
“I just wanted to put zeros up on the board after the two home runs,” he said. “My teammates were battling from the beginning to the end, and we had a great inning.”
Try a monster one. Frank Thomas and Carl Everett hit RBI doubles off Mussina in the sixth before there was even an out. Mussina struck out Brian Daubach, but then Valentin homered to right on a full count.
As he saw the ball sail over the fence to give Chicago a 5-3 lead, Valentin pumped his right fist.
“My teammates were telling me, `You’ve got it, you’ve got it,”’ Loaiza said. “I was just thinking about positive stuff. This is what it’s all about.”
Chicago wasn’t done, either. After Willie Harris hit an RBI single, Lee followed with an RBI double to make it 8-3. Antonio Osuna relieved, and finally got the last two outs to get the Yankees out of the inning.
Mussina gave up a season-high eight runs and 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings.
“You don’t get the opportunity to play with a 20-game winners,” White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said. “And you don’t get the opportunity to be on a team where a guy has had a career such as his and then have an opportunity to win 20games.”
Chicago’s nine hits in the sixth were its most in an inning this season. … The start of the game was delayed 49 minutes by rain. … The WhiteSox have 217 homers, tying the club record set last year.