Paul Sullivan: It’s not a no-hitter, but Carlos Rodón shows again that his starts are appointment viewing as White Sox beat Cleveland, 8-5

Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune
·4 min read

Thanks to a snowstorm Friday in Boston that pushed him back a day in the rotation, Carlos Rodón faced the same Cleveland team Tuesday night that he no-hit last week, along with the same starting pitcher, Zach Plesac.

Adding to the synchronicity, Cleveland manager Terry Francona wrote out the same lineup for the rematch.

But other than that, everything else was different for the Chicago White Sox left-hander, whose world abruptly changed last Wednesday after a memorable night on the South Side. The question mark attached to Rodón’s name suddenly was replaced by an exclamation mark, and anticipation had mounted for days by the time he took the mound at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

There was no no-no in the cards, but Rodón proved again he’s back in business.

There was no doubt he would be a little more amped up than usual, though Sox manager Tony La Russa predicted beforehand the shoe was on the other foot.

“Yeah, I think the amp is on the other side,” La Russa said. “I think the hitters, when you get no-hit, I think they’re going to try to ambush him as much as they can. But it’ll be interesting. ... It’s great fun to watch.”

It was indeed fun to watch as Rodón attempted to join Johnny Vander Meer of the 1938 Cincinnati Reds as the only pitchers to throw back-to-back no-hitters. It was a nearly impossible task, of course, as no pitcher who threw a no-hitter since Vander Meer has come close to repeating the feat his next time out.

Rodón’s attempt at history ended in the third inning when center fielder Jordan Luplow led off with a solo home run deep into the left-field bleachers on a 2-2 fastball.

He wound up allowing one earned run on three hits with eight strikeouts and five walks while grinding through five innings in an 8-5 win over the Indians.

After three starts, Rodón has an 0.47 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 19 innings.

La Russa said it was so “uncomfortable” Tuesday night, “I don’t think hitters on either side are going to enjoy going to the plate.” The game-time temperature was 40 degrees, but that didn’t prevent Rodón from being fashionably underdressed. Ignoring the cold wind, he chose to wear short sleeves, as is his tradition, eschewing an undershirt and leaving the top button of his jersey undone.

Rodón had no walks and only six three-ball counts in the no-hitter, keeping his pitch count low enough that there would be no reason to consider taking him out in the eighth or ninth if it got too high.

He wound up throwing 114 pitches, 19 more than his first start, when he tossed five shutout innings against the Seattle Mariners on April 5. That was his highest pitch count since July 29, 2018, against the Toronto Blue Jays, when he threw 116 pitches in a 7-4 loss in his ninth start after returning from arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

But his control wasn’t nearly as sharp Tuesday, and some defensive lapses hurt him in the fourth and led to his premature exit.

Rodón walked a pair in a 20-pitch first inning and had four walks and five strikeouts through three, running his pitch count to 65. The Sox gave him a quick lead with two runs off Plesac in the second on Luis Robert’s double, Nick Madrigal’s RBI groundout and Tim Anderson’s home run to right.

José Abreu, whom La Russa inserted at designated hitter while giving Yermín Mercedes his first major league start at first base, cranked a 458-foot home run — his longest since at least 2015 — to make it 3-1 in the fourth.

But Mercedes failed to grab a soft but catchable throw from Madrigal on a routine grounder to start the fourth, and a catcher’s interference call on Yasmani Grandal allowed Josh Naylor to reach. After a walk loaded the bases, Rodón struck out Yu Chang and Luplow before César Hernández’s infield hit brought home a run.

Fortunately for the Sox, Naylor blew past a stop sign and Yoán Moncada easily threw him out at the plate. La Russa soon replaced Mercedes with Andrew Vaughn.

Though every inning was a battle, Rodón flashed that familiar smile in the fifth after hitting the dirt on a liner by Franmil Reyes that was well over his head. He was removed after finishing the inning at 110 pitches.

Rodón was far from perfect but it was another step forward, and it’s apparent that every start he makes from here on out will be must-watch.

“We have been through hell,” Rodón’s wife, Ashley, wrote on Twitter the night of the no-hitter, saying she cried when Sox fans gave him an ovation in the seventh inning. “Carlos has been through hell and back. ... Thank you fans for giving him that moment. After that I knew it was all gas no brakes.”

There’s open road ahead, and his journey is just beginning.