Yankees' Carlos Rodón was a disaster once again. Where do they go from here?

TORONTO — Carlos Rodón failed to provide the New York Yankees much hope to win a ballgame for a third straight start.

The Toronto Blue Jays led 8-0 by the time the second inning was over. George Springer, who entered Thursday’s game as MLB’s worst-qualified outfielder in OPS, crushed two three-run home runs against Rodón’s fastball. Toronto had 10 hits and eight runs against Rodón in his five innings pitched, raising his ERA to 4.42 on the season. As Baseball Reference’s Katie Sharp noted, Rodón is the first Yankees pitcher to allow at least eight runs and 10 hits in back-to-back games since Monk Dubiel did so in 1944. He’s the first Yankees pitcher to allow at least 20 earned runs over a three-game span since Chien-Ming Wang in 2009.

Rodón’s biggest issue Thursday was the Blue Jays offense sitting on his fastball. It has not been an effective pitch for him since becoming a Yankee. Opponents entered his start with a hard-hit rate of 52 percent against his fastball this season, the sixth highest mark among qualified starters, according to Inside Edge. He’s allowed an average exit velocity of 93.5 mph against his fastball since the start of last season, the third highest mark among starters with at least 95 innings pitched. On the first home run Springer hit, Rodón missed middle-in, a spot he’s been hammered on since last year. He’s allowed a slugging percentage of .685 on inside fastballs, the highest mark for starters with at least 95 innings pitched.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone believes teams are sitting on Rodón’s fastball but says the profile — the shape, the spin and the movement — is fine.

“The thing is, I feel like it’s good right now,” Boone said after the Yankees’ 9-2 loss. “It’s not like it’s a poor pitch for him. But there’s no question people are selling out to that a little bit and having some success. They’ve slugged it. And that’s hurt him in these few outings. It’s getting it to some better spots, picking the right times to use it, using other things that get him off that a little bit, which I thought he did a good job as the game unfolded while still being a featured important pitch for him.”

Rodón’s fastball is always going to be his most-used pitch. That pitch earned him $162 million from the Yankees in free agency two offseasons ago. But something must be done about how often and when he uses it because of its ineffectiveness this year. Opposing hitters had a .394 xwOBA (a stat that measures contact quality) against his fastball before Thursday’s outing. A .394 xwOBA would rank as the 10th best for any MLB hitter — or described differently, it would rank just slightly better than Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s contact quality this season.

Even though Rodón allowed eight runs, he still lasted five innings. Why? Because he dropped his fastball usage and changed the sequencing from the third inning onward. In the first two innings, he threw his fastball 50 percent of the time. Dropping it by 10 percent for the final three frames and mixing in more sliders and changeups allowed Rodón to hold Toronto to just three hits, no walks, four strikeouts, six groundballs and only three hard-hit balls.

Rodón isn’t going to turn into a junkballer, but he acknowledged the sequencing needs to improve.

“I think it’d be something along the lines of changing the mix will probably increase the fastball effectiveness, I would hope,” Rodón said. “Mixing in some sliders and changeups and changing the tunnels can get them thinking differently.”

Adjusting with better pitch sequencing and dropping the fastball usage during his last three outings has at least allowed him to provide length in each dud and not completely tax the bullpen. But it’s bewildering why mixing in more secondary pitches is not the plan as soon as the game begins. Opponents entered Thursday’s game with a miss rate of 41 percent against Rodón’s non-fastball pitches, good for the 89th percentile in MLB. He’s ranked in the 88th percentile among starters since the 2022 season with a .300 slugging percentage against non-fastballs, too. Opponents have expected slugging percentages of under .300 for both his slider and changeup.

The strategy moving forward seems simple: Throw fewer fastballs or change the sequencing of them. Twelve of his first 18 pitches against Toronto were fastballs. By the time the 18th fastball landed in the seats off Springer’s bat, the game was already out of hand.

“Look, every game is different,” Boone said. “There are some games where you’re going to feature certain pitches. You gotta have the ability to go a couple of different ways. I don’t think that is necessarily a rule going forward.”

With the Yankees’ loss, they’re now in second place in the American League East behind the Baltimore Orioles. One of the reasons the Yankees jumped out as one of MLB’s best teams this season is because of how Rodón pitched in Gerrit Cole’s absence. Before his last three outings, Rodón’s ERA was 2.93. There was talk of him possibly being an American League All-Star. But looking deeper at his underlying metrics foreshadowed what was likely to come. His ERA-FIP was the eighth highest in MLB, meaning he was one of the luckiest starters. His BABIP was the 13th lowest. Opposing hitters were barreling his pitches up at an alarming rate, but having one of MLB’s best defenses behind him helped his numbers look better than what they should have been.

Rodón has pitched like the 2023 version of himself in his last three outings. There’s not much confidence when he steps on the mound right now, but it does seem like he and the Yankees could get better results with a different strategy. They can’t keep going to something that doesn’t work.

“I just need to be better,” Rodón said.

(Photo of Carlos Rodón reacting after giving up a three-run home run to Toronto’s George Springer in the second inning: Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press via Associated Press)

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