Without a playoff run ahead of them, the 2023 Yankees will end September mostly focused on playing spoiler against the Blue Jays and fostering positive steps forward for their struggling players with an eye on 2024.
While The Kids have provided most of the hope that next year could look a little brighter, free agent addition Carlos Rodón finally clicked into something after what might've been his biggest disaster of the year against the Tigers.
His two-pitch mix was clearly somewhat to blame, though the back injury that sapped him of his command earlier in the summer certainly played a key role, too. Regardless, after getting battered and booed at home by a light-hitting Detroit team to the tune of eight hits and seven runs in 3.2 innings, Rodón decided he needed to make a change.
On Tuesday night at Fenway Park, he was beaten to the spot on an inside fastball by Ceddanne Rafaela before settling in, walking four (typical for 2023) but striking out nine in five mostly clean innings. Sunday in Pittsburgh -- yes, yes, it's Pittsburgh, but remember how he recently looked against Detroit? -- was far superior.
Rodón didn't walk a batter. He blazed 100-100-99 to whiff Jack Suwinski in the sixth inning to work his way out of a jam. With two outs and a runner in scoring position in the seventh, he'd allowed just a two-out RBI single and a strange Miguel Andújar home run (of course) the other way. With an 0-2 count and his pitch count approaching 100, he'd need to gather himself one final time to put a seven-inning exclamation point on this road series. On 0-2, he bent a curveball right to the top of the zone, only for home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstadt to fundamentally misunderstand the concept of a strike.
A few pitches later, he got wrecked by a grounder off the third base bag. Come. On.
Yankees' Carlos Rodón screwed by bad umpire Hunter Wendelstadt call, tiebreaking grounder off third base
And just like that, he's in line for the loss in a game where he'd probably "earned" a win more than any other in 2023.
For those who've followed the 2023 Yankees -- first off, sorry -- it should also come as no surprise that Anthony Volpe tied this game in the seventh with a solo home run. Volpe heroics tend to be followed by the universe taking aim at the Yankees this season (umpire decision against the Red Sox, Gleyber in Detroit...).
The result of Sunday's game isn't as important as Rodón taking a defiant step back from the edge and temporarily silencing the fleet of WFAN callers who believe he's the "worst Yankees signing ever" in Year 1. But still ... it would've been nice if the robotic strike zone had wrapped his final inning before third base ever had a chance to interfere.