Loaiza named AL Pitcher of the Month

Loaiza named AL Pitcher of the Month

The zip on right-hander Esteban Loaiza's fastball seemed lost and his mechanics looked out of whack.

That was back in April, May and June, though, when Loaiza went a combined 4-7 with a 6.72 ERA. Since then, he's rediscovered his low-90s fastball and made a couple of mechanical adjustments.

In addition, Loaiza hasn't lost a game. Period. And that includes the month of August, when he went 4-0 with a 1.48 ERA and 31 strikeouts in six outings for the Athletics.

Not bad, right? Loaiza was so good throughout August, that he was voted the American League Pitcher of the Month for the second time in his career and for the first time in more than three years.

"Loaiza put the work in," Athletics manager Ken Macha said. "But [pitching coach Curt Young] spent a lot of time with him and got him on the program, and it's absolutely paid off. [Loaiza] has put the work in to get better."

His fastball is much better than it was earlier this season, when it was wallowing at 79 mph because of a strained upper back in late April. Some of his off-speed pitches might top off around that mark now, but the velocity on his fastball is back around 91-93 mph.

"That's the way he pitched in Chicago," said Athletics designated hitter Frank Thomas, who played with Loaiza during his 21-9 season of 2003.

Loaiza's last few outings mirror the ones he made during that '03 season. In fact, Loaiza didn't allow an earned run in his last three starts of August, when he beat the Red Sox and Blue Jays and took a tough-luck no-decision Aug. 18 against the Royals.

His win Aug. 23 against the Jays was of the complete-game shutout version, and his victory Aug. 28 over the Red Sox stretched his personal winning streak to four games.

"Thought E-Lo was excellent again," Macha said after Loaiza beat the Red Sox. "He's had four great starts in a row."

Since then, he's added another victory to his ledger and extended that winning streak to five games. Loaiza also hasn't lost an outing since July 28 against the Jays.

That last loss bumped the A's out of first place for the first time since June 14, but they've built a comfortable 6 1/2 game lead since with Loaiza contributing in a big way.

Kevin Yanik is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.