You can see it Carlos Rodon’s body language. With six starts on his major league ledger, and success rates climbing as he goes along, pitching with conviction is no longer an issue.
“I’m getting more confident,’’ Rodon allowed after pitching six scoreless innings in the White Sox’ 4-2 victory Tuesday over the Houston Astros before a paid crowd of 18,439 at U.S. Cellular Field.
“Today wasn’t his best command day, but you see the maturity starting to come out,’’ catcher Tyler Flowers said. “Bearing down in those tough situations, executing pitches.’’
In a 116-pitch, six-inning outing, Rodon lowered his ERA to 2.72, the best in the Sox starting rotation, allowing four hits and two walks and striking out five. Even as his fastball command and changeup remain works in progress, Rodon is looking every bit the part of the top-of-the-rotation starter general manager Rick Hahn touted him as when he was drafted third overall a year ago.
That hasn’t taken long.
“To get through it like that with a lot of traffic out there, it was pretty impressive for a young guy,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “He kept his composure. He got into some tough spots and worked his way out of it.’’
Confidence is king. Flowers noticed Rodon hanging his head a time or two during spring training and early in the season, but no more.
“After giving up a hit or not executing a pitch, he’s doing a good job moving on to the next one, realizing that one’s over and let’s execute the next pitch,’’ Flowers said.
“The maturity is coming on pretty quick.’’
When Rodon loaded the bases with one out in the fourth he responded with a strikeout of Luis Valbuena and an inning-ending forceout from Jake Marisnick. Gordon Beckham had helped with a diving stab of Carlos Correa’s liner.
Rodon outdueled Astros ace Dallas Keuchel (7-2, 1.90 ERA), who after shutting out the Sox on four hits with 11 strikeouts on May 30 in Houston, allowed four hits before giving up Jose Abreu’s 10th homer, a two-run shot in the sixth that gave Rodon (2-0) a chance at his second victory.
Cabrera had one of his better games, lining a double over left fielder Preston Tucker’s head in the eighth inning to score Abreu and Avisail Garcia to widen the Sox lead to 4-0. Cabrera also singled and walked and made two difficult catches in left field.
Abreu is hitting .279 and his shot to center gave him 10 homers and 35 RBI, significantly behind the 18 and 49 he had on the same date a year ago.
“I don’t feel that I have a good rhythm right now in my approach in my at-bats, but you have to fight through it, and I’m fighting through it,” Abreu said before the game. “I’m working on it. Right now, my main goal is not just to get my usual rhythm.”
Rodon seems to have found his.
“He absorbs a lot,’’ Ventura said. “He has that bulldog mentality of just going out and gutting his way through it and just battling. That’s an impressive part of what we are learning about him, the way he goes about it and how much he cares and how much he puts on his own shoulders.’’
The Sox had to put this one on closer David Robertson’s shoulders after Chris Carter’s short fly fell between second baseman Bonifacio and outfielders Garcia and Adam Eaton before Carlos Correa hit his first career homer against Zach Duke to make it 4-2.
Robertson have up a single to Hank Conger to put the tying run at the plate but got the last three outs for his 12th save, giving the Sox (27-30) a chance at a series sweep against the Astros (34-26), who have lost six straight games, on Wednesday night.