Carlos Rodon’s two first-inning strikeouts in the White Sox’ 10-1 Game 4 were the memorable moments in what could have been his final start in Chicago.
So much was unknown for Carlos Rodon and the White Sox going into his start in Game 4 of the division series. Was he healthy? Could he get outs? Should the Sox have started Lance Lynn?
But with the Sox in need of his best, he gave it to them and put on a final performance that won’t be forgotten on the South Side anytime soon.
Things started right away for Rodon as Jose Altuve ripped the first pitch of the game for a double. But after getting Michael Brantley to ground out on a pair of sliders, something happened.
Despite not coming into the game 100%, it was like someone flipped the switch and the pitcher who helped guide the Sox to the postseason had emerged.
“I knew about a couple of days ago I felt pretty close to normal,” he said.
Rodon went into ace mode, mowing down the next two hitters and getting himself out of a jam.
After starting the at-bat, 1-0, the Sox’ left-hander blew a 97-mph fastball past Alex Bregman for strike one. He then spun a breaking ball over the plate for strike two. Finally, he reached back and blew a 99-mph fastball past Bregman for the strikeout.
But he wasn’t done there.
He got the next batter, Yordan Alvarez, down in the count 1-2 before blowing another 99-mph fastball by him and letting out a primal scream as he pounded his chest electrifying a sellout crowd.
“Adding in the crowd, an amazing crowd,” Rodon said. “First time for me to see some playoff games at home, and it was something special.”
Rodon went two scoreless innings before getting into trouble in the third. He surrendered a two out, two-run double to Carlos Correa that gave them a 2-1 lead and the Astros never looked back.
No one could have expected Rodon to have the electric stuff that he did in the 10-1 loss to the Astros. In his last start of the regular season on Sept. 29, his fastball averaged just 90.9 mph. He clearly emptied the tank, averaging 95.8 mph on Tuesday.
“I thought he did exactly what he did all year,” manager Tony La Russa said after the game. “He gave us everything he had. … He was competing. It’s exactly what he gave us all year to the extent that he had the stamina, so we all felt very good about his effort.”
Rodon has grown with the White Sox as they’ve built what they feel is their championship core. They picked him as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft and after making it to the big leagues in ’15, it wasn’t an easy road for the southpaw.
He’d struggle with injuries over the next five seasons, ultimately leading to him being non-tendered after the 2020 season. After returning this season, he became one of the best starters in baseball, going 13-5 with 2.37 ERA and even tossed his first no-hitter.
Rodon has an uncertain future as he enters free agency and his start Tuesday could have been his last in a White Sox’ uniform. But he didn’t waste the opportunity to take in the moment. Seeing him walk off the mound to a roar from the crowd felt like a culmination of a significant comeback story for the White Sox in ’21.
“It’s been an interesting road for me,” an emotional Rodon said. “And to have the opportunity to pitch in an important game, it meant a lot. So thank you, White Sox fans, and thank you to the organization.”