Left-hander Carlos Rodon’s 2021 resurgence hit a snag Saturday night, but he still found a way to contribute.
Facing a Royals team that had dropped 12 of 13, Rodon allowed four runs and eight hits in his worst start of the year as the White Sox fell 5-1. Rodon entered the game with a 5-0 record, a miniscule 0.58 ERA and a host of other superlatives that put him in the company of some of the best pitchers in baseball history.
But it was obvious early that Rodon wasn’t at the level that had made him one of the most pleasant surprises of the season.
“It started to come back,” Rodon said of his command. “I started to feel it in the last three innings. I just wish it would’ve shown up earlier.”
Pitching for the first time in eight days after having his start Thursday pushed back because of a tight right hamstring and a tight back, Rodon gave up Jorge Soler’s RBI single in the first and needed 28 pitches to get out of the inning. Salvador Perez made it 4-0 with a three-run home run in the third, hitting a pitch out of the strike zone.
Rodon didn’t blame rust for his start to the game. He said his velocity was where it needed to be, but his command and delivery weren’t.
Despite the bumpy beginning, Rodon threw 110 pitches and went 5⅔ innings to save the bullpen a little bit of work. He and manager Tony La Russa appreciated what that signified.
“It was something we needed,” Rodon said. “I know the bullpen’s been used a little bit lately. We’re about to go on a stretch here where there’s not too many days off, so I was happy to take the ball and go as long as I could.”
Rodon also received kudos from La Russa for not letting the game get away. With the Sox’ offense struggling against Royals starter Mike Minor — other than a Jose Abreu homer — Rodon gave the Sox an outside chance to rally late.
“If he gives in, the game could get really ugly, we use a lot of arms,” La Russa said. “Just one of those starts where early on, I give him a lot of credit for limiting the damage and giving us the chance to win, so I was really impressed.”
La Russa didn’t sound too concerned about Rodon, whose struggles only reinforced how dominant he was in his first five outings. The four runs he gave up were double the amount he had allowed all year. His ERA rose to 1.47, and the three-run third was the first multi-run inning against him. Even after giving up eight hits, Rodon only has allowed 20.
Over the last three innings, Rodon’s delivery improved, and he began hitting his spots, going deeper into the game than it appeared he would after the third inning.
“That was a major accomplishment for us,” La Russa said. “He got two outs in the sixth. He gets the loss, we get the loss, but I think there’s a lot to look at and feel good about as far as Carlos is concerned.”