"Johnny Lasagna" will definitely be eating his post-game meal with a big smile on his face after his Major League debut Friday night.
Yankees RHP Jonathan Loaisiga earned the win in his first big league start after shutting out the Rays through five scoreless innings.
The 23-year-old, who was pitching in place of the injured Masahiro Tanaka, began his night in the Bronx with a walk to Matt Duffy. Though it wasn't the start he would have hoped for, Loaisiga set down Jake Bauers on strikes for his first big-league strikeout. He would finish the inning on a double play as well.
After shaking off any nerves he might have had, Loaisiga settled in as he struck out the side in four batters in the second. And after a perfect 1-2-3 in the third, he made it once through the order without allowing a hit.
That would change in the fourth, though, when Wilson Ramos took a hanging curveball to right field for a single. That would eventually lead to another single and a walk to load the bases with two outs. It was Loaisiga's first jam in the bigs, and after Didi Gregorius smashed a solo homer earlier, he was hanging on to a one-run lead.
The youngster was up for the challenge.
Breaking off two curveballs to get into an 0-2 pitcher-friendly count, Loaisiga went to "Uncle Charlie" again and got Christian Arroyo to swing at a ball in the dirt to end the inning. Loaisiga was poised in this situation, and it impressed his fellow teammates.
"He stayed relaxed," Didi Gregorius said when asked what he saw in the field. "That's a big thing for a young guy to come up."
After a painless fifth inning, Loaisiga walked off the mound and was told by pitcher coach Larry Rothschild that his stellar debut was complete. Manager Aaron Boone said Loaisiga gave the team everything they could have asked for.
"I think everyone got a peek at the stuff. I thought he competed really well," he said. "There's no question to me he got a little tired there in the fifth inning, and when he had to make a pitch there in the fourth, when he really got in this little bit of trouble, he buckled down and made a pitch."
Overall, Loaisiga didn't allow a run on just three hits while striking out six and walking four on 91 pitches over five innings. And here's a stat: Loaisiga is the second Yankees pitcher since World War II to throw five or more innings and not allow a run in his debut.
When you pitch the way he did Friday night, the Yankees faithful will always cheer loud and proud. And Loaisiga admitted it was a surreal feeling.
"It's exciting," he said through a translator. "When you're pitching out there and you have all the fans behind you, it's very exciting, especially here at Yankee Stadium."
Loaisiga may hear more cheers as he certainly made the case to get another start with Tanaka expected to be out for an extended period of time.