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Sox turn to Carlos Rodón in must-win ALDS Game 4

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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Carlos Rodón was insistent that Game 3 was the only thing that mattered.

Now, certainly, Game 4 is the only thing that matters.

That's not surprising if you've listened to Rodón all season long, as he's maintained a consistently committed focus to what's right in front of him, living in the moment not a bad strategy for someone who so often has had his near future robbed from him by significant injuries.

RELATED: White Sox rally to avoid elimination in Game 3

Believing the frustrations of talking about those injuries behind him, Rodón has spent a significant portion of the season's second half talking about his health. His persistently sore left shoulder limiting him and making what he could give the Chicago White Sox in the postseason a complete mystery.

He was included on their roster for the American League Division Series, and Monday, he'll be their starting pitcher in a must-win Game 4.

"The last few days, it seemed like I've turned a corner," Rodón said before Game 3. "Ball is coming out good. I feel good. I feel ready."

Rodón is only getting this chance, of course, because his teammates staved off a sweep Sunday night, with a 12-6 victory in front of a raucous Guaranteed Rate Field crowd. And it's on his left arm, which fared so well in two starts against these Houston Astros during the regular season, to keep his team's season alive once more.

 

When he's been on the mound this season, Rodón has pitched like a Cy Young winner. It's a career year by a longshot, featuring a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians and electric performances against other contenders. That, as mentioned, includes against this same Astros lineup that was one of baseball's best, a 10-strikeout effort on the South Side described as "the most impressive pitching I've ever seen in my life" by rotation-mate Dylan Cease.

Rodón will attempt to replicate the feat he pulled against the Astros during that woeful June sweep in Houston, when he was the only White Sox starting pitcher to throw more than four innings. Though the rotation seemed the biggest reason the White Sox could make a lengthy run this October, it's struggled mightily in this series' first three games, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Cease combining for an 11.17 ERA and 10 walks in just 9.2 innings of work.

But whether Rodón can deliver some heretofore unseen length is the $64,000 question.

That shoulder soreness has made for very long recovery times between starts. He exited his second-to-last outing of the regular season after just three innings, telling La Russa he didn't feel right. A week and a half later, he made his final regular-season start and lasted five innings against the Cincinnati Reds, with a noticeable dip in velocity.

"It all depends which Rodón is present," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "According to our reports, you know, he hasn't been throwing quite as hard as he was before. But maybe the rest did him well. We'll see tomorrow. We'll see which Rodón that we'll be facing."

The White Sox have spent weeks pondering what the left-hander can deliver in an all-important game. They've settled on gladly taking whatever he can give, with pitching coach Ethan Katz saying Thursday, "We'll take five outs. We'll take five innings."

And so only time will tell. When Rodón takes the mound Monday afternoon, the good news is that he'll be on the mound, just like he wanted to be.

As for what comes after? As for whether he can be the same kind of outlier for the White Sox that he was against these Astros in June? As for whether he can deliver a season-extending performance?

"I'm still standing here now," Rodón said, "trying to get on the mound and pitch, do my job."

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