CLEVELAND — The White Sox won despite themselves Wednesday, thanks to a second good performance in as many outings from Opening Day starter Carlos Rodon. This one — six innings of one-run, two-hit ball with one walk and nine strikeouts — was excellent, and Rodon needed to be outstanding with the way the Sox’ fumbling defense continued to play in an 8-3 victory against the Indians and ace Corey Kluber.
More on the defense later. Rodon deserves top billing for overcoming it with a superb effort, easily outdueling Kluber, who was knocked out in the fourth inning. Sixteen swinging strikes amounted to Exhibit A that Rodon, who lowered his career ERA against the Tribe to 2.49, was on.
“The things that were evolving didn’t bother him,” manager Rick Renteria said. “His offspeed pitches had depth and fade, but more than anything for me, he kept his composure. That’s a key for him. He’s a little high-strung — he wants to get things done — but he was able to manage his emotions.”
The Sox’ bats also were on. Third baseman Yoan Moncada continued to hit everything in sight, ripping a 438-foot home run to right field against Neil Ramirez in the eighth inning after walking twice and hitting a 410-foot double off the high wall in center field against Kluber. Moncada is batting .450 with two homers, three doubles, six RBI and nine runs scored.
“I feel very comfortable,” said Moncada, who has reached base in all five games and has been on base in 12 of 23 plate appearances. “All the work I put in during the offseason and spring training is paying off.”
Jose Abreu drove in three runs with a single and a double off the right-field wall, raising his average to .300 and RBI total to seven in five games. Leury Garcia had the first four-hit game of his career, all singles, and, like Moncada next to him at the top of the Sox’ lineup, scored three runs. And Eloy Jimenez singled through each side of the infield, hiking his average to .200 as he finds his way through his first week of major-league pitching.
Kluber allowed six runs — four earned — and eight hits in 3„ innings.
“You have to get him up in the zone,” Renteria said. “He’s a great pitcher. He was trying to find his feel, and we were able to take advantage of what he didn’t have and were able to put points on the board early.”
On the down side, Garcia ran into an out in the first inning, and the Sox made three more errors, including two on one play. Moncada threw a ball away in the first inning, and second baseman Yolmer Sanchez — 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and a batting average of .050 — dropped a pop-up hit by Jose Ramirez in short right in the sixth inning for his third error of the season. Garcia picked the ball up and had Ramirez at second, but his throw deflected off shortstop Jose Rondon’s glove for another error.
“That’s going to happen,” Rodon said. “We’re all not going to be perfect. They’ll pick me up when I’m down, and I’ll pick them up when they’re down. That’s what a team does.”
It’s going to happen, but as Renteria has said, it has to stop for the Sox (2-3), who have had four very good outings from their starters in the first five games, to be competitive.
Rodon (1-1, 1.59 ERA) was good for the second time and didn’t allow an earned run.
“I didn’t have a good fastball, and the slider was a good pitch for me today,” he said. “It kind of bailed me out.”
Ryan Burr and Kelvin Herrera each pitched one perfect inning of relief. Nate Jones, continuing to struggle, allowed a harmless two-run homer to Hanley Ramirez in the ninth.
“That’s a good win,” Rodon said. “Hopefully, it gives us some momentum and keeps us going.”