Carlos Rodon tosses gem as Yankees use small-ball to beat Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Yankees benched 19 feet, 4 inches of sluggers.

In a visiting dugout that certainly has seen more spacious days resided Aaron Judge (6-foot-7), who was afforded his first breather of the season, Giancarlo Stanton (6-6), who took a seat with Juan Soto DH-ing and Anthony Rizzo (6-3), who was given another day to sort out his struggles.

As has been the case all season, the Yankees found a way anyway.

Their height dashed, the Yankees instead rode small-ball and Carlos Rodon to a well-played, 4-2 win in a series opener over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Monday.

Carlos Rodon pitches during the Yankees’ win over the Royals on June 10, 2024. Getty Images

The Yankees (47-21) have won 10 of 12, 14 of 18 and 21 of 27, continuing to roll even if the manner of the roll changed.

They entered play second in MLB in home runs, yet they racked up four runs on nine singles, doing all their damage without an extra-base hit.

Aaron Boone’s bunch dropped down three sacrifice bunts and showed bunt three times in the first four innings, two of those executed properly to lead to runs against an improved Royals club (39-28).

That would be more than enough for Rodon, who brought a no-hitter into the fifth inning and finished with seven one-run frames in one more start that put his miserable 2023 in the rearview mirror.

The Yankees laid out the bunt-print immediately. In the first inning, three singles (from a returning Soto, Gleyber Torres and Alex Verdugo) plated one run and put runners on the corners for DJ LeMahieu.

With one out, the team’s No. 5 hitter laid down a sacrifice bunt that scored Verdugo and became LeMahieu’s first sac bunt since 2022 and second since 2020.

The bunting was only just beginning. In the fourth, LeMahieu knocked a one-out single before Grisham attempted to bunt — but instead got plunked on the foot.

The next batter, Jahmai Jones, successfully got the bunt down to set the table for Jose Trevino, who came through with a two-run single that helped the Yankees pull away.

Alex Verdugo hits an RBI single during the Yankees’ win over the Royals on June 10, 2024. Getty Images

That was all the scoring the Yankees would do against Seth Lugo, the former Mets reliever who has reinvented himself and entered play 9-1 with a 2.13 ERA, but it was all they needed because Rodon is a vastly different pitcher than the last time he stepped on the Kansas City mound.

Rodon had not pitched in this stadium since Sept. 29 of last year, when he allowed eight runs and did not record an out in a fitting way to end his disastrous 2023.

In what has been a season of redemption, Rodon lowered his ERA to 2.93 in scattering five hits and no walks over seven strong innings.

Rodon only struck out three but appeared to only turn to his best stuff when needed.

He fought with Hunter Renfroe for 11 pitches — two of which were fouled off Renfroe’s foot, and he later would leave with a fractured left big toe — before reaching back on pitch 12, freezing Renfroe on a 98.4 mph fastball that was the third-fastest pitch Rodon has thrown all season.

Juan Soto returned to the Yankees’ lineup during their win over the Royals on June 10, 2024. Getty Images

Through four innings, Rodon only had permitted one base runner — plunking Nick Loftin in the second inning — and had faced the minimum because Loftin was erased on a double-play ball.

His no-hitter was spoiled in the fifth, when Nelson Velazquez lined a single through the left side, and his shutout bid was ruined in the seventh.

In that seventh, a pair of singles put two on for Freddy Fermin, who singled up the middle to bring in the Royals’ first run.

Rodon talked with pitching coach Matt Blake and was given one more batter: MJ Melendez hit a soft tapper to Torres, who made the smooth play for the final out.

Ian Hamilton surrendered a run in the eighth on an RBI double from Bobby Witt Jr.

But on a night of the Other Guys coming through, Michael Tonkin notched his second career save in a seven-season career. Clay Holmes, who had pitched Sunday and on three of four days, was given the night off.

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