We’ve almost reached the jaundiced light at the end of the dilapidated tunnel that has been the Yankees’ 2023 regular season. Only three more games separate the players and their fans from a long, welcome break from an on-field product that was far more often miserable than not. At least they have an opportunity to end the season on a high note facing the AL Central-worst Royals and their 105 losses. Their next defeat will tie a franchise record for futility with the 2005 edition.
Carlos Rodón can leave the fans with a smidgen of optimism with a solid final outing tonight. There have been recent bright spots, including his five innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts against the Red Sox and his lone double-digit strikeout start the following time out in Pittsburgh, but on the whole 2023 has been a lost season for the Yankees’ big-money addition of the offseason. In 13 starts, Rodón is 3-7 with a 5.74 ERA (76 ERA+), 5.49 FIP and 64 strikeouts in 64.1 innings.
Jordan Lyles is one of the few starters in the AL who has been worse than Rodón. His 17 losses, 6.24 ERA, 5.65 FIP and 0.1 fWAR are all worst among qualified starters. There’s a remarkable consistency to the 32-year-old journeyman — he’s finished in the bottom-five of qualified starters in each of the last four seasons. That said, he did just toss five scoreless innings against the dangerous Astros lineup, so the Yankees can’t enter this game expecting the righty to just roll over. In 30 starts, Lyles is 5-17 with a 6.24 ERA (71 ERA+), 5.65 FIP and 116 strikeouts in 171.2 innings.
The Yankees deploy a youthful lineup for their final series opener of 2023. Estevan Florial has a 101 wRC+ and improved strikeout rate since his September 11th call-up and returns to the leadoff spot. Aaron Judge has an outside shot at 40 home runs in under 110 games — he’s at 37 — and keeps his spot in the two-hole. Otherwise there’s a whole lotta rookies in the lineup — Austin Wells, Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera and Everson Pereira all look for some late-September success to use as a launching pad for 2024.
Bobby Witt Jr. took a massive leap from his fourth-place Rookie of the Year finish last season, vaulting himself just outside the top-10 on the fWAR leaderboard with his .273/.315/.487 triple slash line, 29 home runs, 49 stolen bases, 112 wRC+ and Gold Glove-caliber defense (+13 Outs Above Average — 4th best among shortstops), all good for 5.5 fWAR. Nelson Velázquez has raked since his Trade Deadline acquisition from the Cubs, with 14 home runs and a 135 wRC+ in 38 games. Outside of that pair, there’s not a whole lot that Rodón should fear from this Royals lineup. Edward Olivares, Nick Loftin and Logan Porter are all above-average by wRC+ but with little pop to trouble Rodón, while the rest of the batting order has been pretty lifeless.
How to watch
Location: Kauffman Stadium — Kansas City, MO
First pitch: 8:10 pm ET
TV broadcast: YES — NYY/Bally Sports Kansas City — KC
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280 / WEEI 93.7
Online stream: MLB.tv (out of market only)