CHICAGO -- If you can’t have a little fun making history, then why bother, right?
Rodón retired the first 25 hitters that he faced before losing a bid for the fourth White Sox perfect game via a 1-2 back foot slider that hit Cleveland catcher Roberto Pérez in the foot. Rodón seemed a little stunned, but instead of losing focus, the southpaw looked more amused by the situation and engaged Pérez in brief conversation as he walked to first.
“I've played against Pérez for quite a while now. I was just like, 'Hey, did that get you?' And he was like, 'Yeah, it got me,’” a smiling Rodón said. “That was the only exchange. It wasn't nothing mean at all, just curious.
“It was a 1-2 count and I wanted slider and obviously got it. It was just one of those where you think back foot but obviously you don't want to put it on his back foot. He did the right thing. He stayed in there. He said, ‘I'm going to let it hit me, you ain't getting a perfect game.’ I would do the same thing if I was hitting. You've got to earn it.”
Catcher Zack Collins, who was behind the plate for his first career no-hitter, thought it was Pérez’s lack of recognition of the pitch leading to the break with perfection.
“He was way off the plate,” Collins said. “I kind of set up a little bit further in to make sure we didn’t give him a pitch right over the middle of the plate. I wanted to bury that slider to make sure that he wasn’t putting a good swing on it.
“Pulled it a little bit. I think he got hit more because he didn’t recognize the pitch, rather than we hit him. Most of the time you recognize that pitch and move out of the way.”
For pitching coach Ethan Katz, the real concerns came during the Josh Naylor at-bat to open the ninth. Naylor hit a slow roller to first baseman José Abreu to the right of first, and Abreu’s only play was to slide feet first into the base after grabbing the chopper. His slide narrowly beat Naylor’s hard-charging, headfirst attempt, even with the Indians down, 8-0, possibly because Naylor reached with his right hand (instead of his left) and missed the bag.
Katz thought the perfect game and no-hitter was over once the umpiring crew went to video challenge, thinking they only would make that move by believing Naylor was safe. Collins thought that Naylor clearly was out, and the replay confirmed first-base umpire Brian Knight’s call.
“I was more concerned with the review process and how long that could take and him not throwing, just standing on the mound, with the play the first out in the ninth,” Katz said. “I wanted to make sure he was ready to go. If he was out, I didn’t want him to fall behind the next hitter and waste pitches.
“You know, I was excited inside. Really excited for him personally. Hoping that he was going to be able to complete that. But also focused on the what if, to be able to protect him too because his pitch count was getting high.”
Lucas Giolito threw the only other no-hitter presided over by Katz and it took place when they were both at Harvard-Westlake during a high school playoff game in California. Manager Tony La Russa, meanwhile, made a special promise to Collins before Wednesday’s game in that if he caught a shutout, Collins could have La Russa’s office.
“With the excitement, I thought he’d forget,” La Russa said. “As he walked by he said, ‘Clear out, I’m in there.' I said, ‘You had a no-hitter, that kind of kills the bet.’ Last thing I heard, [home clubhouse manager] Rob [Warren] was moving my things into his locker, so I’m glad to give it up.”
As of Thursday morning’s Zoom, La Russa still had his office. And Rodón was back to work, ready to build on the best start of his career, coming one week short of the anniversary of his Major League debut in 2015.
“Last night was special,” Katz said. “He was on top of his game and what he did was pretty amazing.”