CLEVELAND — The Carlos Connection powered the White Sox on Sunday afternoon.
Rookie Carlos Sanchez homered for the second day in a row, and fellow beginner Carlos Rodon struck out nine as the White Sox topped the Cleveland Indians, 2-1, in front of 17,751 at Progressive Field. The victory gave the White Sox their first four-game sweep since July 2010 and improved their record to 46-50.
Rodon — who walked 44 batters in his first 70 1/3 innings — didn’t walk any in 6 2/3 scoreless innings and became the fifth straight White Sox starting pitcher to not issue a free pass, the team’s longest streak since 1972.
“Once he realizes he does have stuff that if he does happen to throw it over the plate it doesn’t mean it’s going to get crushed every time,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He made competitive pitches when he fell behind and one just landed in there and that’s what big leaguers do and he’s really turned himself into something.”
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After walking 19 batters in his previous five starts (26 innings), Rodon was sharp from the outset, using all of his pitches effectively. For only the second start in 13, Rodon didn’t walk anyone, and it kept him out of trouble for most of the day.
“He did a great job getting ahead of guys,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “That’s a big thing right there. He was locating his fastball pretty well. That gave us an opportunity to get a good feel for the slider. He threw a number of good changeups in there, too. So when he’s getting strike one early, then we have a couple of things to work with.”
Rodon threw strikes on 73 of 111 pitches, including 13 of 21 with his changeup. He also threw strikes on 32 of 48 fastballs.
In the first of two instances where Rodon got into a jam, his defense bailed him out. Brandon Moss and Roberto Perez opened the third inning with a single and a double. But Jose Abreu started a rundown on a Mike Aviles grounder for the first out, and Rodon induced a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Jason Kipnis to end the third inning as Alexei Ramirez barehanded the grounder and flipped to Sanchez.
Ramirez also robbed Kipnis of an extra-base hit in the sixth inning.
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But Rodon was otherwise effective into the seventh inning. That’s when Moss had a two-out single with a man aboard to end Rodon’s day. Jake Petricka struck out Perez to strand runners on the corners.
“He can get himself into some trouble, but what he has that most people don’t is he can get himself out of trouble,” Ventura said.
The White Sox offense did just enough to complete the sweep.
A day after he blasted his first big league homer, Sanchez hit one to nearly the same exact spot but eight feet further as his 412-foot blast in the third put the White Sox ahead 1-0.
“(It’s) not surprising,” Rodon said of the homer. “I’ve seen it before.”
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Sanchez continued a hot streak that has seen him raise his average to .221 with two more singles. The latter, with one out in the seventh, led to the team’s second run. Tyler Saladino drew his third of three walks with two outs, and Melky Cabrera singled to score Sanchez. Cabrera went 2-for-4.
The White Sox have only begun to start to dig themselves out of a massive hole with the four-game sweep. They’re still four games under .500 and appear to be on track to trade Jeff Samardzija before Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline. But they’re still clinging to hope — they sit five games back in the wild-card race — after the offense has come to life and the defense has cleaned up.
“Why not us?” Rodon said. “That’s the mentality we’ve got to have. Why not us? Why can’t we do it? So just keep on winning, keep on plugging away, and this brand of baseball we’ve been playing this weekend should keep it going.”