NEW YORK -- The pieces were in place for the Yankees on Tuesday night.
Yet the Yankees (60-65) were unable to pull themselves out of the rut, suffering a 2-1 loss to the Nationals (58-68) in the opener of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. New York has dropped nine straight contests, marking the club’s longest losing streak since September 1982.
“You work hard to put yourself in a position to shake hands at the end of the day,” said manager Aaron Boone. “When you get beat over and over again and you're in the middle of a tough season, it makes it hard. But you got to fight that feeling and get your [behind] back here tomorrow ready to compete. It's no fun walking in that locker room getting beat every night.”
Rodón twirled six strong innings of one-run ball, with Carter Kieboom’s solo home run in the third the only damage against him. It was the longest outing of the southpaw’s pinstriped tenure, and he did it in just 68 pitches (41 strikes). It was also tied for the fewest runs he has allowed among his seven starts, matching his Subway Series debut on July 26, when he earned his only win.
But the Yankees’ bats remained cold, managing only one hit in six frames off Washington starter Josiah Gray. That came off the bat of catcher Ben Rortvedt, who answered Kieboom with a homer of his own in the bottom half of the inning. Even after Gray gave way to the bullpen, the Yanks tallied only one more hit, also courtesy of Rortvedt. He reached base a career-high-tying three times, including a walk in the fifth. The rest of the lineup combined to go 0-for-26.
“Every loss really stinks at this point,” Rortvedt said. “It doesn't get easier at all. We really just have to come in every day prepared to turn this around. Every day’s a new opportunity to go out there and try and flip a switch.”
The Yankees got on base with six free passes and a hit by pitch -- all but one of which came off Gray -- but the offense didn’t materialize from there, as they never made it past second base beyond the round-tripper.
“[Gray] didn't have great command, obviously, and we were able to create some traffic,” Boone said. “I thought we got some pitches that we probably missed. We hit some balls on the screws that we didn't have anything to show for.”
Rodón, who missed the minimum 15 days on the injured list with a left hamstring strain, wasn’t built up to go more than four or so innings, but his ability to weave in and out of danger against an aggressive Nats lineup kept his pitch count down and kept the Yankees in it.
So did a trio of outfield assists, one for each member of the Yanks’ new configuration: Aaron Judge in right, Harrison Bader in center and Pereira in left. It was the first time the club has notched that many since July 15, 2007, and it was the first time they tallied one at each position since Lou Piniella, Ruppert Jones and Reggie Jackson on July 27, 1980.
“The boys picked me up,” Rodón said. “… It makes it a lot easier to pitch when the boys are catching the ball and throwing guys out like that.”
After Rodón’s departure, reliever Tommy Kahnle allowed a go-ahead homer to CJ Abrams in the eighth. The Yankees had one last chance to turn the tide in the bottom of the ninth after Bader’s one-out walk, but Pereira lined out to center on the first pitch he saw, and Peraza grounded out to third on his second.
It was a fitting bookend to what has become an “unsettling” stretch for the Yankees, who are now 10 1/2 games out of the third American League Wild Card spot.
“Listen, the guys in this room are the guys we got, and we have a job to do. We just have to trust in each other and go out there and play baseball,” Rodón said. “We just got to put our nose in the ground and go. We gotta go. That's it. There's nothing else to it. This is what we’ve got.”