When the Yankees signed Carlos Rodón to a six-year, $162 million deal last winter, it was seen as the type of rotation-lifting move that could make the Bombers scarier in the postseason — a co-ace to pair alongside Gerrit Cole, giving the team a two-headed monster that no team would want to face in the playoffs. Fast-forward six months and not only are the Yankees not going to make the playoffs, Rodón just capped off one of the worst debut seasons by a big money signing with one of the most miserable starts in MLB history. Warning: gory details ahead.
From the very first pitch he threw — a 92-mph fastball to Maikel Garcia — you could sense that trouble lay ahead for Rodón in the outing. Not even the most pessimistic or cynical of Yankees fans could have foreseen what transpired next. Garcia singled on a center-cut fastball, Bobby Witt Jr. walked and Salvador Perez drove both home with a double into the left-center gap on a first-pitch 94 mph heater. Two pitches later, Edward Olivares crushed a hanging curveball to left for a two-run bomb to put the Royals up, 4-0, and already it was a matter of just how bad things could spiral for Rodón.
Spoiler alert: It only got worse. All his pitches were missing almost 2 mph of velocity and the Royals hitters feasted. Nelson Velázquez singled on a middle-middle two-strike slider, Nick Loftin singled on a 1-2 fastball, Matt Duffy singled Velázquez home on a slider right down Broadway, and Logan Porter walked to load the bases and essentially forced Aaron Boone to retrieve his starter despite there still being no outs. There was even an embarrassing incident earlier in which Rodón turned his back on pitching coach Matt Blake and tried to wave him off. Terrible look.
Rodón threw 35 pitches with no success whatsoever. Here are all the hits he allowed:
Matt Bowman jogged in from the bullpen and promptly served up a double to Kyle Isbel to plate the sixth and seventh runs of the contest. Over turned the lineup, as Garcia singled to center to plate Porter and put runners on the corners for Witt, who lifted a sac fly to drive in the ninth run of the inning. Bowman would get out of the inning without surrendering more from there, which I suppose is a minor victory the way the frame was going.
In total, the Royals sent 14 hitters to the plate, tallying nine runs on ten hits and two walks. We normally limit the video clips to Yankee highlights but this spectacle deserves to be seen:
Rodón became just the 10th pitcher since 1901 to give up at least eight runs without recording an out. He was also the first Yankee since Catfish Hunter in 1978 to allow at least the first eight batters of the game to all reach safely. His final line on the night saw him give up eight runs on six hits and two walks without recording an out, ballooning his ERA to 6.85 in 64.1 innings, ensuring that he finishes the season with the worst ERA in the rotation — even worse than Luis Severino — and below replacement level by fWAR.
From there it was simply a formality of how long this game would take to reach its conclusion. To the credit of the Yankees hitters, they didn’t just mail it in after the first, plugging away before finally finding some success against Jordan Lyles, who entered the contest as the worst qualified starter in baseball. He was perfect through three including striking out the side in the third, but the cracks appeared in the fourth.
Aaron Judge walked and Gleyber Torres singled to with one out to bring cleanup hitter Austin Wells to the plate. He golfed a 1-1 sweeper that hung right in a lefty’s happy zone for a three-run blast to right — his fourth home run in seven games as the rookie catcher’s bat is heating up in the final weeks of the season, hopefully momentum he can build upon in 2024.
Oswald Peraza led off the fifth with a double, advancing to third on an Oswaldo Cabrera sac bunt. Everson Pereira brought him home with an RBI groundout to make it 10-4 Royals. The following inning it was Judge’s turn to lead off with a double, advancing to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a Wells RBI groundout to give the backstop four of the five runs driven in on the night.
Back to the pitching side, after Bowman departed following the second, the Yankees turned to Randy Vásquez to eat up some innings. The rookie did just that, limiting the Royals to a run on four hits and two walks across 3.2 innings. He struck out six to tie his season high. It’s been a pleasure watching Vásquez and fellow rookie Jhony Brito grow into the multi-inning relief roles they’ve inherited in the back-half of the season. The pair can provide a valuable resource to the Yankees in 2024 as Michael King continues his impressive charge to nail down a spot in the rotation next season.
Vásquez did stumble toward the end of his outing, loading the bases on two singles and a walk, but Zach McAllister came in and stranded all three ducks on the pond by striking out Porter. The Royals scored their 10th run in the third as Perez beat out a double play to plate Garcia. The 11th and 12th came on Witt’s 30th home run of the year — a towering two-run blast off Keynan Middleton in the seventh to become the first 30/30 player in Royals history. He’s even one stolen base shy of a remarkable 30/50 campaign. That’s where the scores would stand as the Royals take the opener, 12-5.
The Yankees need to capture one of their final two games to avoid becoming the first in 30 years to fail to record a winning season (they would be 81-81, so .500 on the dot). The defeat already ensures that they won’t match the 2016 squad at 84 wins, so this is locked into being the worst Bombers club since 1992 anyway. Clarke Schmidt will look to get the job done tomorrow with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 pm ET, so we hope you’ll join us in the game thread.