Yankees go for singles party in Kansas with key veterans off

Glimpses of Yankees small-ball play against the Royals at Kansas City on June 10, 2024.

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Juan Soto returned to the New York Yankees’ lineup on Monday night as the designated hitter. At the same time, key players Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Anthony Rizzo were given the night off. Additionally, the Yankees announced that relievers Clay Holmes and Luke Weaver would be unavailable out of the bullpen. Despite social media users dubbing it a “punt lineup,” the Yankees maintained their confidence.

The revamped lineup, often referred to as the “B lineup,” provided a refreshing change, especially after a late travel day. Instead of focusing on power hitting, the Yankees emphasized singles, bunts, quality at-bats, and strong defense, contrasting with previous seasons where players often aimed for the “hero homer.”

Against Royals starter Seth Lugo and the Kansas City bullpen, the Yankees collected nine hits, all singles. In total, the two teams combined for 16 hits, with 15 being singles. Lugo pitched seven innings, while recent call-ups Dan Altavilla and Sam Long contributed two scoreless innings for the Royals.

The absence of Judge (6-foot-7), Stanton (6-foot-6), and Rizzo (6-foot-3) left a noticeable gap in the visiting dugout, benching a combined 19 feet and 4 inches of sluggers. Despite the challenges posed by the revised lineup, the Yankees found a way to overcome obstacles and secure a victory.

Yankees’ bunts backup as Rodon leads the way

New York Yankees starting pitcher Carlos Rodon walks off the mound after the second inning during the game against the Kansas City Royals Monday, June 10, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo.
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The New York Yankees secured a 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday night, employing small-ball tactics and a strong pitching performance from Carlos Rodon. Despite benching several of their towering sluggers, the Yankees showcased their adaptability in the series opener at Kauffman Stadium.

The Yankees (47-21) have been on a remarkable run, winning 10 of their last 12 games, 14 of 18, and 21 of 27. They maintained their momentum with a strategic shift, scoring four runs on nine singles without recording an extra-base hit, even though they are the second-best home run-hitting team in MLB.

Manager Aaron Boone’s squad executed three sacrifice bunts and attempted bunts three times in the first four innings, leading to runs against the improved Royals (39-28).

Boone acknowledged that while the Yankees are not typically reliant on bunting or base-stealing, there are moments when small-ball execution is crucial for securing wins.

Rodon delivered a standout performance, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning and completing seven innings with just one run allowed. His strong outing further distanced him from his disappointing 2023 season.

The Yankees set an early tone, scoring a run in the first inning with three singles from a returning Juan Soto, Gleyber Torres, and Alex Verdugo. DJ LeMahieu, batting fifth, laid down a sacrifice bunt that scored Verdugo, marking his first sac bunt since 2022 and only his second since 2020.

Yankees prove to be the master of adapting strategy

Yankees' Juan Soto celebrates his first hit against the Royals at Kansas City on June 10, 2024.
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With the Yankees reaching a season-high-tying 26 games over .500, Boone emphasized the importance of adapting strategies to win games, even if it deviates from their typical power-hitting approach.

In the fourth inning, DJ LeMahieu singled with one out, followed by Trent Grisham, who was hit by a pitch while attempting a bunt. Jahmai Jones successfully laid down a bunt, setting up Jose Trevino, who delivered a two-run single, extending the Yankees’ lead.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone highlighted that the bunting strategy places additional pressure on the opposing team and offers a way to win without relying solely on home runs or dominant pitching. Trevino also executed a sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning.

The Yankees’ four runs proved sufficient against Seth Lugo, a former Mets reliever with a 9-1 record and a 2.13 ERA coming into the game.

Rodon delivered a starkly improved performance compared to his last appearance at Kauffman Stadium on Sept. 29, when he allowed eight runs without recording an out, capping off a challenging first year with the Yankees. This time, Rodon lowered his ERA to 2.92, demonstrating a season of redemption.

Rodon acknowledged that he had marked this game on his calendar, determined to provide his team with the best chance to win after last year’s disappointing outing.

The Yankees‘ victory underscored their ability to adapt and secure wins through diverse strategies, even without their power hitters in the lineup.

Rodon showcased his dominance on the mound Monday night, leading the team to a victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Rodon was nearly untouchable through the first four innings, allowing only one baserunner via a hit-by-pitch in the second, which was immediately erased by a double play. Nelson Velazquez broke up his no-hit bid with a single in the fifth, and Freddy Fermin ended his shutout with an RBI single in the seventh.

Despite these minor blemishes, Rodon managed to escape further trouble in the seventh by inducing a groundout from MJ Melendez, leaving two runners stranded. He then handed the game over to the bullpen, which successfully maintained the lead.

Rodon’s performance marked a significant turnaround from his last outing at Kauffman Stadium in September, where he allowed eight runs without recording an out, a low point in his challenging 2023 season. Rodon admitted that the memory of that game had been hard to shake and used it as motivation for his strong showing this year.

This win highlighted the Yankees’ ability to adapt their playing style, moving away from their typical power-hitting reliance. Rodon’s excellent outing reaffirmed his importance to the Yankees’ rotation, demonstrating his progress since last season.

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