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Loaiza looking like an ace
By Chris Ruddick, MLB Contributing Editor
White Sox team report
(Sports Network) - When the Chicago White Sox signed pitcher Esteban Loaiza to
a minor league contract in the offseason no one around baseball seemed to bat
an eye. It was not as if Loaiza had done anything particularly special over
the first eight years of his career to warrant the kind of fanfare that say
a Bartolo Colon acquisition would bring in.
Well almost a month into the 2003 season and it is looking more and more as if
the Loaiza signing could be the major factor in determining if the White Sox
are going to make a run at the American League Central title.
"He's really performed extremely well," said Chicago manager Jerry Manuel.
"He's a hot guy right now. The mixing of pitches, changing speeds, attacking
the strike zone -- he's doing everything."
Thanks to Tuesday's 4-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago has won five
of its last seven and is four games back of the upstart Kansas City Royals in
the division. With Colon starting to find his groove in the Windy City and
Loaiza looking like an ace, the duo has become one of the most lethal 1-2
combinations in the league.
The 31-year-old Tijuana, Mexico native turned in another brilliant effort on
Tuesday, as he limited the Baltimore Orioles to just one run on four hits over
8 1/3 innings to run his record to a perfect 4-0 on the season, while lowering
his ERA to 1.24, the second lowest mark in the AL.
"I'm hitting my spots and throwing different pitches ahead of the count," said
Loaiza, who had to earn a spot in the rotation with a solid showing in the
spring. "I can't really say I have a favorite pitch, because all of them are
working and I'm getting people out."
Loaiza, who entered the season with a career 69-73 mark, came within two outs
of his fifth career shutout, but allowed a solo homer to Baltimore's Jay
Gibbons in the bottom of the ninth.
"We ran into a buzz saw," said Baltimore coach Sam Perlozzo. "Loaiza had us
frustrated all night."
With Loaiza cruising on the hill, Frank Thomas got the job done at the plate,
as he delivered a 2-for-4 night and gave the Pale Hose the early lead with a
first inning homer. The home run was his third of the season and the 379th of
his career to move him into a tie for 47th on the all-time list with Orlando
Cepeda and Tony Perez.
"He has a history of hitting good in this ballpark," Manuel said of Thomas,
who entered the contest hitting just .218. "This is a good place for him to
get it going. If he can kind of do his thing here and use this as a
springboard for the rest of the season, it could make us pretty tough."
Magglio Ordonez extended his major league-best hitting streak to 18 games,
which is also a career best. He is 22-for-71 during the stretch with three
home runs and 14 RBI.
Paul Konerko is off to an atrocious start and is hitting just .203 with a
pair of homers and eight RBI.
The White Sox will play the second leg of their three-game set against the
Orioles on Wednesday before closing the series at Camden Yards on Thursday.
Chicago will then return home for nine games starting with a three-game
stretch against the Minnesota Twins over the weekend.
04/23 14:21:40 ET
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