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Carlos Rodón reverses Kansas City fortune, Juan Soto gets a hit in return as Yankees beat Royals, 4-2

Carlos Rodón’s start in Kansas City on Monday couldn’t have gone much differently than his last one there.

On Sept. 29, Rodón surrendered eight earned runs without recording an out at Kauffman Stadium, capping a difficult 2023 debut season with the Yankees.

During that outing against the Royals, Rodón turned his back to pitching coach Matt Blake during a mound visit, prompting an apology from the pitcher.

That feels like a distant memory now.

In Monday’s 4-2 win, Rodón limited the upstart Royals to one run over seven stellar innings, which included four hitless frames to begin the outing. It was the second straight start in which Rodón flirted for a bit with history, having thrown 5 1/3 perfect innings to begin last Wednesday’s 9-5 win against the Twins.

Rodón, 31, improved Monday to 9-2 with a 2.93 ERA this season. He is now tied for the American League lead in wins with his opponent on Monday, the Royals’ Seth Lugo, whom the Yankees tagged for four runs on eight hits over seven innings.

The Yankees received a boost from the return of Juan Soto, who was back in the Yankees’ lineup after a three-game absence due to forearm inflammation.

Soto struck a single in his first at-bat, kicking off a two-run rally in the first inning. Soto’s 95-mph grounder up the middle was the first of three consecutive first-inning hits by the Yankees.

Alex Verdugo drove in Soto with an RBI single, and D.J. LeMahieu followed with a run-scoring safety squeeze. Jose Trevino added a two-run single in the fourth inning.

Soto, 25, had not played since Thursday, when he exited an 8-5 win over the Twins once play resumed in the sixth inning after a 56-minute rain delay.

Imaging revealed inflammation in Soto’s left forearm, but no structural damage to his elbow, and he sat out the entirety of the Yankees’ three-game series against the Dodgers over the weekend before returning Monday as the designated hitter. Soto went 1 for 3 with a walk in his return.

Lugo, 34, spent his first seven seasons with the Mets, primarily pitching out of the bullpen, before succeeding as a full-time starter last year with San Diego. In the offseason, he signed a two-year deal with a player option with Kansas City, which pays him $15 million annually.

He has been a significant factor in the resurgence of the Royals, who are 39-28 after losing 106 games last year. He has a 2.36 ERA after Monday’s loss.

Lugo’s uneven outing Monday came against a Yankees lineup that was missing Aaron Judge, who received his first off day of the season; Giancarlo Stanton, who also got a rest; and slumping Anthony Rizzo, who sat for a second consecutive night.

The Yankees (47-21) have now won nine games in a row with Soto in the lineup. They have won seven straight games started by Rodón, who has thrown at least six innings in each of those outings.

The four-game series in Kansas City continues Tuesday night, with Marcus Stroman (5-2, 3.04) set to start for the Yankees and Brady Singer (4-2, 2.76 ERA) scheduled to pitch for the Royals.