OAKLAND, Calif. — White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon gave his manager what he asked for.
With a bullpen so overtaxed that Rick Renteria was already looking forward to Thursday’s off day as well as the All-Star break next week, Rodon (in his second start of the season) pitched into the seventh inning Monday night to lead the Sox to a 7-2 victory over the Athletics before a holiday crowd of 40,019 at Oakland Coliseum.
“It felt good, a little relief to get the first win out of the way,” Rodon said.
Of more importance to the Sox’ big picture, Rodon came within one of his career high with 10 strikeouts and held the A’s to two runs on four hits and three walks. Both runs came in the second, and Rodon was a handful after that with a sharp slider and effective changeup to go with his good fastball.
“The changeup really bailed me out today, Rodon said. “My command was way better and I built some confidence as it went on.’’
Rodon was one botched double play away (second baseman Yolmer Sanchez dropped the ball making his pivot) from finishing seven, but right-hander Anthony Swarzak swooped in and cleaned up the defensive mess by recording four outs and lefty Dan Jennings got four more.
Rodon caused a brief scare in the second after landing on his foot wrong on a pitch, but he was fine. He made his second start since coming off an upper biceps issue that had shelved him since Opening Day and limited him to one Cactus League outing in spring training. He needed 94 pitches to get through five innings against the Yankees on Wednesday, when he allowed no earned runs but walked six.
“All of his stuff was working really good,’’ Renteria said. “He was throwing a lot more strikes and was very efficient. I think it was a really good sign for him.’’
Todd Frazier doubled twice and drove in two runs against Jharel Cotton (5-8) and Melky Cabrera had three singles and an RBI to lead the Sox’ offense. Tim Anderson, Matt Davidson, Willy Garcia and Adam Engel each drove in a run.
Rodon’s 319 strikeouts are the most by a Sox pitcher in his first 56 games.
Before the game, as the Sox (37-45) were about to begin a six-game road trip while searching for their fifth win in seven games, Renteria told Rodon to be more efficient with his pitches. He was just that when he needed seven pitches to get through the fourth inning and eight in the fifth.
“It’s one of the things I know [pitching coach Don Cooper] talked to him a lot about over the last couple of years,’’ Renteria said, “being more efficient, attacking the strike zone, trusting his stuff.’’
With a mid-90s or higher fastball and a slider that falls in line with the best in the game, Rodon, 24, has a lot of upside. But commanding his pitches, staying out of deep counts and pitching deep into games has been his challenge in his first few seasons in the majors.
“He is a high-energy type guy,’’ Renteria said. “He gets pretty excited, which is fine with me. We’re just hoping with that great stuff, he’ll be able to efficient with his pitches and go deeper into the ballgame.’’
With closer David Robertson missing the three-game series on the paternity list while his wife gives birth to their second child, Renteria indicated hard-throwing right-hander Tommy Kahnle or other mix-and-match options would be his ninth-inning choices. With a four-run lead, Renteria let Jennings (1„ innings) finish off the A’s (35-48).
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