Carlos Rodón picked up a victory for the first time since April 19, 2019, and the White Sox ended a two-game losing streak with a 6-0 whitewash of the Mariners on Monday night in Seattle.
Rodón struck out nine over five innings and 95 pitches, walking three and allowing two hits. He pitched out of jams in the third with J.P. Crawford on third base and nobody out, and in the fourth, when he walked the bases loaded with one out. Rodón also recorded 19 swings-and-misses and topped out at 98.4 mph, per Statcast.
But this was more a first step for Rodón, who made his first start since Aug. 3 of last season.
“It’s just good to get that first one out there, to be out there to pitch and compete,” Rodón said. “It’s been a while to get a win under my belt, and it’s nice to have one again. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, with a few more to go, obviously.”
“He did really good,” said White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal of Rodón. “I hold all my pitchers to a high standard, so I felt like he could have done better. But it’s the first game of the season, I’m sure he was pumped for it. We’ll make some adjustments and we’ll go at it next time.”
Grandal launched his 150th career home run and drove in three, while Yermín Mercedes’ three hits gave him a third game in four starts with at least three hits and an amazing 12-for-18 start to the season overall. Andrew Vaughn, a fellow rookie, picked up his first career RBI when he was hit by a Justus Sheffield pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth. Vaughn has yet to record his first career hit, but made two stellar catches in left field.
The White Sox also extended their team winning streak in games against an opposing left-handed starter to 16 straight. It marks the second-longest such streak in Major League history behind the Braves at 18 in 2004-05, with left-hander James Paxton taking the mound for the Mariners Wednesday.
Michael Kopech struck out five over two scoreless innings of relief, as he hit 97.8 mph and recorded nine swinging strikes among his 34 pitches. And while this night was focused upon Rodón’s return, a previously injury-plagued hurler who has thrown 42 1/3 innings over the last two seasons, he couldn’t help but laugh when thinking about who the Mariners had to face after he left the game.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh they have to face Kopech now,’” Rodón said. “It’s not exactly fair. Then [José] Ruiz came in after Kopech for two more innings and he was nasty, as well. And then I was like, ‘Oh they’re facing Giolito tomorrow, this should be fun.’ So, fun staff.”
After being non-tendered by the White Sox in December, Rodón returned via a one-year, $3 million free-agent deal at the start of February. He worked diligently at improved physical conditioning during the offseason and cleaned up mechanics in the lower half, giving him hope Spring Training success would carry over into the regular season.
It was just one start against a lineup with pronounced struggles against left-handed pitching. But it’s the best Rodón has felt overall since he first joined the White Sox in the big leagues after being taken third overall in the 2014 Draft.
“Now being healthy, able to repeat those mechanics, repeat my delivery makes pitching a little easier,” Rodón said.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Carlos Rodón yet,” Grandal said. “The future for him looks pretty bright.”
“He just continues to improve, doesn’t he?” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “You remember his first bullpen, to his first batting practice, to his first [spring] game, and now every time he goes out there, he’s taking a couple steps forward. You can tell his velocity is improving, but his command [too].”