MINNEAPOLIS -- Carlos Rodon worked out of a tight spot on Wednesday night and his offense rewarded him in a huge way.
Well, Jerry Sands did anyway.
Shortly after Rodon pitched out of a sixth-inning, bases-loaded jam, Sands, who made his first start of the season, delivered a massive two-run home run off Phil Hughes to catapult the White Sox to a 3-0 victory in front of 21,008 at Target Field. Rodon worked around five walks (one intentional) and a tight strike zone from plate ump Andy Fletcher to deliver six scoreless innings. He struck out six and allowed three hits as the White Sox improved to 6-2, their best start since 2012.
“That’s what you want out of a team, you want a lot of guys chipping in to help you win games,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s not like we’re clubbing people 11-0 and everybody’s getting four hits a night.”
Rodon appeared to get squeezed on occasion Wednesday, but it never impacted him as much as it did in his final inning.
Leading 1-0, the left-hander’s 2-2 offering appeared to go for a strike up and in against Miguel Sano only to be called a ball by Fletcher. Rodon walked Sano on the next pitch and Trevor Plouffe singled on an 0-2 fastball to put the go-ahead run at first. Eduardo Escobar was intentionally walked after Eddie Rosario’s sac bunt moved both men into scoring position.
But Rodon struck out Max Kepler on three pitches and then won a four-pitch battle against Kurt Suzuki to escape the jam, inducing a foul popout on his 107th pitch.
“That’s baseball, man,” Rodon said. “You’ve just got to step up, do your job. It was a tough outing, but that’s baseball. It’s a part of it. You walk guys like that, you just keep on pitching, keep on going.”
Perseverance by the White Sox offense against Hughes paid off in the seventh. They had also threatened to break through in the previous two innings and settled for one run.
Melky Cabrera lined out hard to first base before Brett Lawrie singled to center, his second hit of the night. Sands, who earlier struck out with two in scoring position, quickly fell behind Hughes in the count 1-2. But Sands ripped into a cut-fastball from Hughes that caught too much of the plate and blasted it out to center for a two-run homer and a 3-0 lead.
“He had been front-hipping some cutters to me all night once he got ahead so I had an idea it was coming,” Sands said. “He had been throwing it pretty good all night and dotting it up pretty good, but luckily he left one out over the plate.
“I knew I got it good, but this park plays big especially at night. (Byron) Buxton runs about anything down out there, you see him turn around and run, hopefully it gets over his head. I was glad it went out.”
Sands started the game in place of Avisail Garcia, who is only 1-for-12 in his career against Hughes. Ventura opted for Sands because Hughes is actually slightly tougher against left-handed hitters than he is righties, who have a .759 OPS versus a .733.
That was enough to support Rodon and the four White Sox relievers who followed.
“That was awesome, man,” Rodon said. “That was a tough pitch, (cutter) away. He saw it was down, he got up and got it, hit it out.”
Disappointed he allowed a pair of early runs and lost his first start last Wednesday, Rodon nicely rebounded in his second outing with solid fastball command. He threw strikes on 54 of 78 fastballs (69 percent).
Rodon retired six of the first seven he faced and then stranded runners in scoring position in the third and fifth innings of a nice duel with Hughes, who didn’t allow a hit until the fourth.
Rodon threw strikes on 64 of 107 pitches to deliver his 10th consecutive quality start. He has a 1.73 ERA in 67 2/3 innings in that span.
“When he needed to be, he bowed up and got through the sixth and was in tough spot and came through,” Ventura said. “For a young guy, that’s something you can put in your pocket and move on.”
Hughes retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced with five strikeouts. Only Jimmy Rollins reached with an infield hit in the fourth. The fifth inning began with promise as Cabrera singled and raced to third on a Lawrie double. But Hughes struck out Sands on three pitches and then got Alex Avila to strike out. Austin Jackson grounded out to third and the White Sox left two stranded in scoring position.
Adam Eaton started a sixth-inning rally with a singled and scooted to third on Rollins’ second single. The White Sox went ahead 1-0 when Jose Abreu grounded into a double play.