Carlos Rodon’s 2021 resurgence hit a snag Saturday night. However, he still found a way to contribute something to the White Sox.
Facing a Royals team that had dropped 12 of 13, Rodon allowed four runs and eight hits in his worst start of the year as the Sox lost 5-1 to Kansas City. Rodon entered the game with a 5-0 record, tiny 0.58 ERA and a host of other superlatives that put him in the same company as some of the best pitchers in baseball history.
But it was obvious early Saturday that Rodon wasn’t at the level that made him one of the most pleasant surprises in the sport and helped propel the Sox to first place in the American League Central.
“It started to come back,” Rodon said of his command. “I started to feel it in the last three innings. I just wish it would’ve shown up earlier on.”
Pitching for the first time in eight days after having his Thursday start pushed back because of a tight right hamstring and tight back, Rodon gave up Jorge Soler’s RBI single in the first and needed 28 pitches to get out of the inning. Salvador Perez then made it 4-0 with a three-run homer in the third, hitting a pitch he had to expand the strike zone to reach.
Rodon didn’t blame rust for how he began Saturday. He said his velocity was where it needed to be, though his command and delivery weren’t.
But despite the bumpy beginning, Rodon managed to throw 110 pitches and go 5 2/3 innings to save the bullpen a little bit of work. Both he and manager Tony La Russa appreciated what that meant.
“It was something we needed,” Rodon said. “I know the bullpen’s been used a little bit lately. We’re about to go on a stretch here where there’s not too many off days to come by, so I was happy to take the ball and go as long as I could.”
The Sox lefty also got kudos from La Russa for not letting the game get away. With the Sox offense struggling against Royals starter Mike Minor other than a Jose Abreu homer, Rodon gave the Sox an outside chance to rally late.
“If he gives in, he gives up there, the game could get really ugly, we use a lot of arms,” La Russa said. “Just one of those starts where early on, I give him a lot of credit for limiting the damage and giving us the chance to win, so I was really impressed.”
La Russa didn’t sound too concerned about Rodon, whose struggles Saturday only emphasize how dominant he was in his first five outings to lead one of the best starting rotations in baseball. The four runs he gave up to Kansas City were double the two he had allowed previously all year. His ERA rose to just 1.47, and the three-run second was the first multi-run inning of the season for Rodon’s opponents. Even after giving up eight hits, Rodon’s still allowed only 20 this year.
Over the last three innings, Rodon more closely resembled that pitcher. His delivery improved and he began hitting his spots, going deeper into the game than it looked like he would after the third.
“That was a major accomplishment for us,” La Russa said. “He got two outs in the sixth. He gets the loss, we get the loss, but I think there’s a lot to look at and feel good about as far as Carlos is concerned.”