Was this Carlos Rodon’s best outing since joining the White Sox?
“I think so,” Robin Ventura said.
The manager couldn’t help but answer that question in the affirmative after Rodon turned in a sensational effort in Tuesday night’s 3-0 White Sox win over the Angels at U.S. Cellular Field.
The rookie struck out 11 batters in seven shutout innings, the first time he did either in his brief major league career, and yielded just four hits. After giving up a combined 19 runs in three of his last four starts, Tuesday night was about as good a bounce back as he could’ve scripted.
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Rodon got in a little trouble early, allowing the first two Angels hitters of the night to reach in front of baseball’s best player, Mike Trout. But Rodon struck out Trout, then struck out another All Star in Albert Pujols before getting Erick Aybar to fly out to end the threat. And it was pretty smooth sailing from there, as only three more players reached base against the rookie over the next six innings.
“That’s not a good position for anybody to be in, but he handled it great,” Ventura said. “He was able to bounce back. I thought composure and competitiveness and everything that’s he’s got, he had to put it in to that because it’s not a good spot to be in. He got out of that one and continued from there and really pounded the zone. I think command, he was getting ahead and getting guys swinging late. Really impressive stuff from Ro after the last couple haven’t been his best. But this is a great performance to bounce back and do this.”
"That's probably one of the best three-four hitters in the game right there, and that's a tough lineup for sure,” Rodon said of that first-inning jam. “I knew going in they were going to be patient, and (Shane) Victorino’s a vet, so good at-bat. Then (Kole) Calhoun hits that slider opposite way, went the other way with it, and then I just knew I had to pound the zone, go after (Trout).”
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By night’s end, Rodon set a new career high in strikeouts and innings pitched and became the first White Sox rookie pitcher to put up multiple double-digit strikeout games since Jason Bere did it in 1993.
“It’s probably his best outing, and it’s a good one to build on for him after a couple of tough ones,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “Get that confidence rolling again. He’s definitely a No. 1 type kind of guy.”
While Rodon was silencing the Angels, the White Sox offense took care of another All Star, former teammate Hector Santiago. Santiago was perfect the first time through the White Sox order, but after surrendering his first hit to Tyler Saladino, he hit Jose Abreu with a pitch and coughed up a two-run double to birthday boy Melky Cabrera.
An inning later, Trayce Thompson took his former minor league teammate deep for his first major league home run.
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Between Rodon’s gem, Thompson’s homer and great defense from Saladino at third base, it was a pretty great night for the rookies.
“Anytime you get it from young guys, there's some energy, there's some life to it,” Ventura said. “Again, it's special when a guy gets his first hit, his first win, first homer. Guys respond to that. They understand how special that is, and everybody's happy for them. But there's something added to it, especially when you win.”
Winning hasn’t been in as abundant a supply as the White Sox would’ve hoped this season, but Tuesday’s victory meant back-to-back wins for the South Siders, the first time that’s happened since the end of that seven-game winning streak on July 29.
General manager Rick Hahn refused to wave the white flag on the 2015 season Monday, and games like Monday’s and Tuesday’s — with their dominant pitching performances and solid offensive contributions, not to mention great defense — show you why there’s still that glimmer of hope.