All of the White Sox matter, of course, but some matter more than others. That’s just the way it goes for teams with slim hopes of being in the playoff picture.
When veteran right-hander Ivan Nova has a bad start, as he did Sunday, the Sox’ rebuild is none the worse for wear.
When Opening Day left-hander Carlos Rodon walks five batters, gives up eight hits and can’t complete five innings, the powers that be won’t rest as easily. Rodon, 26, has ace potential — his nine strikeouts Monday against the Rays serves as a reminder — and is a big part of the Sox’ future plans.
In what had the looks of an intriguing matchup between Rodon and Rays Cy Young Award-winning left-hander Blake Snell, Rodon was never in it. He faced eight batters in a two-run first inning and gave up two more runs in the second. Snell, meanwhile, was striking out 11 Sox and walking nobody in six innings of one-run ball.
The Rays, shaking off a long flight from San Francisco the night before, looked crisper than the Sox in a 5-1 victory Monday before a paid crowd of 11,734 at Guaranteed Rate Field. It was the third loss in a row for the Sox, who fell to 3-6.
‘‘Just needed a little step up in tempo, trying to get into a rhythm,’’ Rodon said. ‘‘Fastball command was bad, so we had to go to the slider again. But it wasn’t working early, wasn’t spinning it early, so we had some free passes, and I kind of hurt myself.’’
Manager Rick Renteria and pitching coach Don Cooper detected a ‘‘hitch’’ in Rodon’s delivery early, and Cooper tried talking Rodon (1-2) through it.
‘‘Hopefully it’s something that [Rodon] will take to heart,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘He’ll sit down with [Cooper]. They’ll look at it and see if they can get that work done that’ll put him back in a good place.’’
‘‘Yeah, the slider was good,’’ Rodon said. ‘‘Later on in the game, it seems like there was a lot of swing-and-miss. But I’d like to have that fastball going in the strike zone more often. Just falling behind hitters, not establishing the strike zone. That’s how you get yourself hurt. I put the damage on myself out there [by] walking five today.’’
So, like right-hander Lucas Giolito on Saturday, Rodon followed a good start with a dud. That’s not the consistency the Sox are looking for from two of their young starters. What often separates pitchers such as Snell from those such as Rodon is a repeatable delivery that can eliminate those kinds of outings.
‘‘You have to have a good sense of feel of your body,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘Coop tries to find key words for them to use in order to get themselves back on track. Sometimes they feel it, sometimes they don’t. Hopefully we get to that point with all of our guys that they’re coming along in a quicker fashion, so that they can go out and be effective when we need them.’’
Rodon needed 111 pitches (54 sliders) to get through 4 2/3 innings.
With Snell dealing, the Rays’ four runs in the first two innings were huge. All the Sox got against Snell was Jose Rondon’s home run in the fifth. They threatened in the sixth, when Leury Garcia — who has hit safely in all seven games he has played in — led off with a double and shortstop Tim Anderson reached on a single off Snell’s glove. But Snell struck out Jose Abreu, Welington Castillo and Yoan Moncada, dropping Moncada to 1-for-14 with six strikeouts during the Sox’ losing streak.
‘‘Yeah, he’s pretty good,’’ Rodon said of Snell. ‘‘Against a guy like that, you have to be on your game.’’