Loaiza becomes fifth 20-game winner in majors


CHICAGO (AP) -- When the last of the New York Yankees went down
swinging, Esteban Loaiza walked out of the dugout to a standing
ovation, his teammates waiting on the mound to congratulate him.

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.

Jose Valentin hit a three-run homer, and Carlos Lee drove in a
pair of runs in Chicago's big inning.

"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

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."

Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams homered in the second to give
Mussina a 3-0 lead, and it looked as if that might be enough.

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

"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 20 games."

Game notes
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 White Sox have 217 homers, tying the club record set
last year.