Frustration mounts after Rodón puts Yankees 'behind the barrel'

July 10th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yankees’ summer slide has prompted growing frustration within the clubhouse, boiling over after yet another rocky start prompted starter to punch the dugout bench with his non-pitching hand.

Rodón stewed after giving back an early lead, surrendering four first-inning runs in New York’s 5-3 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. The Yankees have lost 17 of their last 23 games since June 13, when they held the Majors’ best record (49-22).

“It has not been fun, that’s for sure,” Rodón said. “I’m just not really giving my team a chance to win, giving up runs early. I’ve just got to put up a zero in the first and try to stretch something together. I keep saying, put it behind me. I have to.”

Playing in front of an audience that included managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, general manager Brian Cashman and numerous other club executives, the Yankees fell to 13-17 against American League East opponents this season.

“We know we’re better than this,” said rookie Ben Rice, who hit a two-run homer late. “I wasn’t here for the majority of the first part of the year, but everyone saw what we can do when we’re at our best. So I think it’s just a matter of time before we dig ourselves out.”

The Yankees have been playing from behind too often in a swoon that has now extended past three weeks -- “Far too long,” as Cashman put it -- but they notched an early lead in the first inning on Tuesday as Gleyber Torres returned from two games out of the lineup with a groin injury to stroke a run-scoring single.

But the Rays were ready for Rodón, pouncing on the left-hander as he attempted to establish his fastball early. Yandy Díaz led off with a single, then scored on Randy Arozarena’s double, a play that saw left fielder Alex Verdugo charged with an error.

Amed Rosario followed with a single and Rodón grooved a fastball to All-Star Isaac Paredes, who slammed a three-run homer into the left-field seats.

“Damage done -- the long ball gets us again,” manager Aaron Boone said.

After the inning, Rodón spent several minutes huddling with right-hander Gerrit Cole to review video of the at-bats on an iPad. At one point, Rodón leaned back on the bench with evident exasperation, his hands clasped across the top of his head.

“That’s got to be a shut-down inning,” Rodón said. “It’s tough to swallow. I’ve got to be better than that.”

As he has in previous starts, Rodón provided length by incorporating his curveball and changeup more; he acknowledged that an apparent solution to his first-inning woes would be to do so earlier. Rodón navigated four innings, tossing 95 pitches.

“I try to attack fastballs in the zone and they’ve been getting on some heaters,” Rodón said. “When we get out there in the second, we start mixing. I think I’ve got to make that adjustment as the game begins, ready to use the whole arsenal from the get-go.”

Rodón has permitted eight homers in his last five starts after surrendering 11 over his first 14 starts. Rodón’s 19 homers allowed are tied for second-most in the Majors, trailing only the Blue Jays’ José Berríos (21).

Since June 15, Rodón has permitted 27 runs in 23 innings (10.57 ERA), losing a career-high five consecutive starts. He’s the first Yankee to lose five straight starts since Masahiro Tanaka in 2017; this after Rodón won seven consecutive starts from May 8-June 10 (2.28 ERA).

“It seems like we’re behind the barrel every time,” Rodón said. “I put the offense behind. It’s hard for them to claw back from. It’s hard for them to win games when you’re down by four, five, six, seven, eight runs early on.”

Rice’s seventh-inning homer, his fifth big league blast, trimmed the deficit to a run. Jonny DeLuca gave Tampa Bay an insurance run in the eighth, doubling home Jose Siri against Tommy Kahnle, a run charged to Michael Tonkin.

“Any time you can add on those runs like that at the end, knowing who was lurking with that offense coming up between [Juan] Soto and [Aaron Judge], you’ll take them,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Given the Yanks’ struggles of late, the mountain was too high to climb, though Boone bristled when presented with that.

“You can’t look at it that way. That’s defeatism,” Boone said. “Screw that. We’ve got to get after it, regardless.”