CLEVELAND — Carlos Rodon was at his absolute best Sunday. Todd Frazier was at his sneakiest.
Together, they helped the White Sox steal a 3-0 victory Sunday which gave them a series win over the Cleveland Indians and denying the AL Central leaders a chance to clinch the division championship on their home field.
Rodon, a 23-year-old second-year left-hander, did not allow a run over eight innings of two-hit ball. His 11 strikeouts were a season high and matched a career high. The eight innings were a season high and matched a career high.
Rodon (8-10, 4.08 ERA) allowed leadoff singles to Brandon Guyer in the fifth and Carlos Santana in the seventh. After Santana’s hit, he struck out five of the last six batters he faced. Rodon walked three and became the first pitcher since Justin Verlander in 2011 to work eight or more scoreless innings with two hits or fewer and 10 or more strikeouts against the Indians.
“That’s the best I’ve seen him,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “Strike one was the biggest thing and it was with authority and it was placed well. And it just seemed like he got better as the game moved along.’’
When Guyer singled, Coco Crisp walked and Chris Ginemez bunted them over to start the fifth, Rodon got. Michael Martinez on a short fly and struck out Rajai Davis.
“You see it on pitchers’ faces sometimes, they have antics out there with a pouty face” when things get stressful, Frazier said. “He didn’t have that, he just bulldogged through it.’’
Rodon had his changeup and slider working and a fastball that hit 97.
“I was able to drive the ball today and when I’m going good that’s the way it is, driving the ball through the zone and attacking hitters,’’ he said. “It needs to stay like that.’’
Carlos Sanchez drove in Frazier from second with a two-out single after Frazier got a sneaky, walk-off lead on Tomlin to steal second with two outs. Sanchez drove in pinch runner J.B. Shuck with a sacrifice fly and Frazier walked, stole second again for his team high 15th steal of the year on right-hander Zach McAllister in his familiar fashion and scoring on catcher Omar Narvaez’s two-out single.
“I’m not the fastest guy but if I can a step ahead and get two or three or four when the pitcher throws it they’re [the catcher is] not going to be be able to throw it,’’ said Frazier, who said he learned a few tricks from former Reds great Joe Morgan when he was in the Reds farm system.
Frazier had been tied with Eaton for the modest team lead with 12 until this past week.
“Oh yeah,’’ Frazier said. “I told Eaton I was going to get him… So he’d better get healthy quick. No, just kidding. I told him ‘I’m coming for you’ and I got two today so I took the lead which is pretty cool.’’
David Robertson struck out all three Indians he faced in the ninth inning for his 36th save.
The Sox (74-81) won two of three from the Indians and finished their road trip through Kansas City, Philadelphia and Cleveland at 3-6. The Indians’ magic number sunk to one with the Tigers’ loss to the Royals but the Sox kept it there.
“They’re eventually going to win it but we wont be around to see them celebrate which is meaningful,’’ Frazier said.
Rodon walked into the clubhouse Sunday morning while teammates were watching news about Jose Fernandez’s tragic death.
“Just a bulldog [who] I modeled myself after,’’ Rodon said. “He went out every day and gave everything he had. It’s tragic to lose a guy so early. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball.
“We had a beautiful day to come out and play and sad to say that one person is never going to get to play again. He’ll be very missed. You can’t take these days for granted. Just hope you guys go home today and tell the people you love, that you love them. Losing a person like that is hard.’’