Carlos Rodon survives early jolt, makes a 9 K’s comeback to stun Red Sox

Yankees starter Carlos Rodon is in action against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sept. 12, 2023.

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On Tuesday night, Carlos Rodon‘s first pitch soared high into the sky, ultimately colliding with one of the light towers perched above the Green Monster. The third pitch he delivered was struck with precision, resulting in a double, and shortly thereafter, Carlos Rodon granted a walk. However, he rebounded impressively by striking out the next three batters consecutively, orchestrating a win for the Yankees.

This peculiar sequence of events set the tone for an unusual evening on the pitcher’s mound for the Yankees’ left-handed player. Carlos Rodon displayed a mix of excellence and challenges, ultimately emerging with a commendable outcome of pitching five innings, conceding only one run in a 4-1 victory during the nightcap of a doubleheader sweep against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Notably, Carlos Rodon secured eight of his first nine outs through strikeouts, culminating in a season-high total of nine strikeouts for the night. This noteworthy achievement occurred on a night when his fastball velocity soared and continued to register at an impressive 98 mph even in the fifth inning.

Nevertheless, he did encounter difficulties in terms of command, including two pitches that ended up evading the catcher and reaching the backstop. Additionally, there were instances of hard-hitting contact against the southpaw.

To his credit, Carlos Rodon exhibited determination and adaptability, ultimately finding his rhythm and capitalizing on the opportunity to face an opposing team that had no prospects of competing in the playoffs come October.

Carlos Rodon shows grit but is far away from his own best

Carlos Rodon achieved a remarkable feat by striking out nine batters, which marked a season-high performance. This stellar performance played a crucial role in the Yankees’ doubleheader sweep of Boston at Fenway Park, ultimately resulting in a 4-1 victory. The victory was especially significant for Carlos Rodon, as it marked only his third win of the year. Notably, an unexpected group of relievers played a vital role in preserving the lead during the late innings. This group included Zach McAllister, who made his first MLB appearance since 2018, along with Anthony Misiewicz, Matt Bowman, who made his first MLB appearance since 2019, and Nick Ramirez, who secured his first career save. Together, they combined to deliver four scoreless innings from the bullpen.

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Throughout the course of this year, finding reasons to be optimistic about Carlos Rodon’s performances has proven to be a consistent challenge. His season has been marred by either injury-related absences or struggles on the mound, characterized by conceding substantial hard-hit balls and a lack of dominance over opposing hitters.

In the context of what has been a frustrating season for Carlos Rodon, particularly due to his limited number of starts as a Yankee (only his 11th start), which can be attributed to two stints on the injured list, his recent performance represented a notable improvement following a setback in his previous outing, where he allowed seven runs in just 3 ²/₃ innings against the Tigers.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone commented on the pitcher’s performance, saying that he believed the pitcher had excellent stuff on the mound. Boone also mentioned that there were some mistakes made during the game, particularly with pulled fastballs. He noted that the game started with a home run on the first pitch and a double in the next at-bat, which put Carlos Rodon in a challenging situation early on. However, despite these challenges, Boone believed the pitcher performed well under pressure.

Although Carlos Rodon’s recent performance doesn’t quite mirror the ace-quality displays we’ve seen from him during his tenure with other teams in recent years, which earned him a lucrative six-year, $162 million contract with the Yankees last winter, it does represent a step in the right direction.

In the opening moments of the game, Carlos Rodon encountered some challenges with two extra-base hits, but he rebounded impressively, going on to pitch five consecutive scoreless innings while allowing only two more hits. Despite occasional lapses in command resulting in four walks and some early fortunate outcomes on hard-hit balls, he concluded the game strongly by consistently inducing weak contact from the opposition during the fourth and fifth innings.

As the Yankees’ playoff prospects remain limited in the final month of the season, Carlos Rodon can undoubtedly benefit from any positive momentum as he looks ahead to the offseason, aiming to regain his form and get back on track for the upcoming year.

Carlos Rodon’s clever modification

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Carlos Rodon acknowledged that his recent performance hadn’t been up to his standards but expressed that he viewed the latest game as a positive step in the right direction. He expressed his intention to use this performance as a foundation and build upon it in his upcoming starts.

One noteworthy adjustment in Carlos Rodon’s approach was his utilization of different pitches. Since returning from a lengthy stint on the injured list earlier this year, the left-handed pitcher had primarily relied on just two pitches, his fastball and slider. However, in Tuesday night’s game, Rodón diversified his repertoire by incorporating 13 curveballs and five changeups.

While this may not appear as a substantial quantity, it represented a significant increase compared to his previous outing, enhancing the effectiveness of his fastball and slider. During his previous challenging performance against the Tigers, in which he surrendered a season-high eight hits and seven earned runs, only four out of the 73 pitches he threw deviated from his fastball or slider.

Although Carlos Rodon had predominantly leaned on his fastball and slider in most of his starts this season, he displayed a more balanced mix of secondary pitches on Tuesday. Out of his total of 93 pitches, he delivered 50 fastballs (54 percent) and 25 sliders (27 percent), but notably introduced a season-high 13 curveballs (14 percent) and five changeups (5 percent) into his repertoire.

Apart from the four walks, the sole negative mark on Carlos Rodon’s performance was the leadoff home run he conceded to Red Sox rookie Ceddanne Rafaela. This home run marked the 13th one he had allowed in 51 ¹/₃ innings this season, surpassing the 12 he had given up across 178 innings in the previous season.

Carlos Rodon mentioned that he had observed his fastball-slider combination becoming somewhat predictable to opponents. In response, he and his team decided to introduce a different approach for the game against Boston, considering the Red Sox’s thorough preparation and knowledge of his pitching repertoire. This adjustment was made to provide a varied and less predictable look on the mound.

Following Carlos Rodon’s performance, the Yankees surprised everyone by sending an unusual procession of relief pitchers into the game, featuring Zach McAllister, Anthony Misiewicz, Matt Bowman, and Nick Ramirez.

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It’s worth noting that the Yankees, who were mathematically eliminated from contention for the AL East division title on Monday night, marking a significant contrast to their championship win in the previous year, have not landed in the basement of their division since the year 1990.

Kyle Higashioka emphasized the importance of maintaining discipline and performing at their best as the season winds down. He stressed the need for the team to demonstrate character and finish the season strongly, regardless of the circumstances they face.

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