Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton grounds out during the fourth...

Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton grounds out during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. Credit: AP/Nathan Denette

TORONTO — Carlos Rodon didn’t have much in the way of command or put-away stuff.

Yankees hitters didn’t have nearly enough at the plate.

That combination condemned the Yankees to a third straight loss, this one a 5-4 setback to the Blue Jays on Tuesday night in front of 31,175 at Rogers Centre.

“They made me work,” Rodon said. “I wish I was better tonight. I had good stuff. Had the stuff to get guys out but they had a good approach.”

Rodon, who came in 1-0 with a 2.87 ERA, needed 32 pitches to get through the first, portending a short night. The lefthander, who in the words of one rival AL scout was “foul balled to death” at times, allowed three runs, five hits and four walks over just four innings, throwing 101 pitches (62 strikes).

“Stuff wasn’t his problem,” the scout said. “Commanding it was.”

The Yankees (12-6), meanwhile, were throttled by Yusei Kikuchi. The lefthander, who threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings against them April 5 at the Stadium, did not allow a run over six innings Tuesday, giving up four hits and a walk. He struck out nine.

“He’s a great lefthanded pitcher,” said Aaron Judge, whose slow start continued with a 0-for-4 night that dropped his batting average to .182 and his OPS to .731 through 18 games. “He’s got a great fastball he can run up there mid to upper 90s, good feel for his little cutter-slider combo and a changeup-splitter he kind of mixes in there, too. Kind of keeps you off-balance. When he’s working the edges like he was tonight with all his pitches, that makes for a tough evening.”

The Yankees, who had four hits in Monday’s 3-1 loss, had six hits Tuesday. Taking advantage of the break of seeing anyone but Kikuchi on the mound, the Yankees scored twice in the seventh against righthander Trevor Richards to make it 5-3.

Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano, activated earlier in the day from the injured list, provided some theater in the ninth. Daulton Varsho made a diving catch in left of an Anthony Rizzo liner (Rizzo was robbed earlier in the game by leftfielder Davis Schneider with another diving catch), then Romano hit Gleyber Torres. Alex Verdugo doubled, and Jose Trevino’s groundout scored Torres to make it 5-4. But Oswaldo Cabrera grounded to second, earning Romano the save and the Blue Jays (10-8) the win.

Torres had an interesting night in the field.

With Luke Weaver on the mound in the sixth, Ernie Clement doubled and was called out at third when Torres, making an aggressive decision, though not an incorrect one, tried for him there on a grounder by former Yankee Isiah Kiner-Falefa. But the out call was overturned via replay challenge as Clement avoided the tag with a creative slide. Weaver struck out Varsho and was replaced by the harder-throwing Nick Burdi. With George Springer up, Kiner-Falefa took off for second and when the ball skittered away from Torres, who failed to catch Trevino’s throw (the error was somehow charged to Trevino but later changed), Clement scored to make it 4-1. Springer walked, Vlad Guerrero Jr. flied to right and Bo Bichette laced a single to center for a 5-1 lead.

“He just didn’t secure the ball on the stolen base,” Aaron Boone said of Torres. “That’s the one that hurt.”

After scoring in the second, on a Trevino RBI single, the Yankees allowed five unanswered runs.

“I thought in the end, we got outplayed tonight,” Boone said. “They played a heck of a game in a lot of ways. Made a couple of huge plays defensively in the outfield, Kikuchi was really good and they had those tough at-bats that didn’t always end in walks but made us work really hard and kind of outlasted us there.”

Extra bases

DJ LeMahieu, who started the season on the IL with a non-displaced fracture in his right foot, is set to begin a rehab assignment toward the end of the week, likely with Double-A Somerset. The veteran infielder said he will need "less than five" games to get big-league ready. Before LeMahieu got hurt, the Yankees’ intent was for him to occupy the leadoff spot, which has mostly been manned in his absence, and effectively, by Anthony Volpe (0-for-4 with four strikeouts Tuesday). Before the game, Boone said the Yankees are not “planning” to take Volpe out of the leadoff spot when LeMahieu returns.

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