BOSTON — The first pitch Carlos Rodon threw on Tuesday night was blasted into one of the light towers above the Green Monster.
The third pitch he threw was drilled for a double.
Then, after Rodon issued a walk, he struck out the next three batters in a row to escape the first inning.
It was a fitting way to start a strange night for the Yankees left-hander, who flashed the good and the bad — more of the former — and came away with a perfectly solid result: five innings of one-run ball in a 4-1 win that clinched a doubleheader sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
“Man. I thought he had great stuff,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He got backed into a corner and threw the ball really well. The fastball for the most part was electric and how he wanted it. Still made mistakes where he pulled some. … You got a peek at, he was overpowering in a lot of ways tonight.”
Eight of the first nine outs Rodon recorded came via the strikeout and he finished with a season-high nine punch-outs on a night when his fastball velocity was up and still hitting 98 mph in the fifth inning.
But he also battled some command issues and allowed a dose of hard contact.
More significantly, Rodon opened up his arsenal a little more than he had all season.
While he has leaned on just his fastball and slider in most starts, he had a better mix of secondary pitches on Tuesday.
Out of his 93 pitches, he threw 50 fastballs (54 percent) and 25 sliders (27 percent), but also added a season-high 13 curveballs (14 percent) and five changeups (5 percent).
“We just kind of committed to throwing all four pitches,” said Rodon, who held the Red Sox to 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. “Featured the curveball heavy and kind of opened up the fastball lane. … It seemed like that curveball helped me out a lot to get swing and miss.”
Rodon said he and the team had talked about mixing up his pitch usage for weeks, but coming off his worst start of the season, against the Tigers, they decided to give the Red Sox a different look.
“The fastball-slider combo seemed like it was getting pretty predictable, obviously,” Rodon said.
Besides four walks, the only blemish on Rodon’s final line was the leadoff home run he gave up to Red Sox rookie Ceddanne Rafaela.
It marked the 13th homer he has allowed in 51 ¹/₃ innings this season — more than the 12 he gave up across 178 innings last season.
Still, in what has been a frustrating season for Rodon — Tuesday was just his 11th start as a Yankee because of a pair of stints on the injured list — it represented progress.
The Yankees are not playing for much over the final month of the season, but Rodon could certainly use any kind of momentum he can create as he heads into the offseason, in the hope of getting back on track next year.
“It still hasn’t been very good,” Rodon said of his season. “But today was a step in the right direction. I just kind of want to build off that and move forward into this next start.”