It’s the kind of game manager Tony La Russa, who has won three World Series titles and has the second-most managerial victories in baseball history, thrives on -- though “fun” might not be the word he’d use to describe it.
“I like those games where you get so far ahead, you can't mess them up,” La Russa said. “They're a tough group. They really are. We matched them. It was a good win for us."
Rodón, making his first start since Sept. 1 after dealing with shoulder fatigue and soreness, worked five effective innings in winning his fourth straight start. The southpaw struck out seven and yielded three hits over 86 pitches, with nine swings and misses coming off his four-seam fastball and the pitch topping out at 97.8 mph, per Statcast.
He averaged 94.3 mph on the four-seamer, below his season average of 95.7 mph. But Rodón also was able to reach back for 96.7 mph to strike out José Iglesias as the culmination of a 12-pitch at-bat with Christian Vázquez on third and one out in the third, and then fan Enrique Hernández with a 97.8 mph four-seamer to finish the inning.
“Third inning, I had to reach back for a few,” Rodón said. “Fourth was good. [I] tried to get some quick outs, but they put together three or four at-bats that were eight to 10 pitches that worked my pitch count up. So they did a pretty good job with that. But I'm happy they let me go out for the fifth."
“He had good stuff and he felt good,” La Russa said. “I think he earned a chance to win it. He's shown that he's got that closing ability to get the last out of the inning and not have to turn it over to the bullpen. Five innings, we stretched him today and I'm sure we'll give him enough rest before the next one."
This latest break was caused by a little soreness, per Rodón, who added it was “nothing worrisome.” He is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 26 strikeouts and a .203 opponents average in 20 innings over his last four starts, while setting a new single-season career high with 175 strikeouts in 124 2/3 innings. He had matched his previous high of 168, done over 165 innings in 2016.
"Just happy to go out there and pitch five innings and give our team a chance to win and let the bullpen take over,” Rodón said. “I'm happy with it. I'd like to go six or seven, but I'm sure that's coming.”
Abreu connected for his 29th home run in the third inning, a three-run, two-out line drive to left on an 0-2 slider from Tanner Houck. Abreu moved into the Major League lead in RBIs with that home run, giving him 107 for the season.
“He has a gift to drive in runs,” said Luis Robert, who added his own run-scoring single, through interpreter Billy Russo. “And he also is in the third spot of the lineup for something. We know that the big opportunities are going to come and he’s going to respond more often than not. It’s a combination of those things. But he definitely has a gift for those situations.”
“That's who he is,” said La Russa of Abreu. “That guy Houck, he's nasty. I wrote on my card, right there -- 'nasty.' The stuff he's throwing up there and he gets him 0-2, made a mistake and José got it and got to it.”
La Russa employed Michael Kopech, Aaron Bummer, Ryan Tepera, Garrett Crochet, Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks to close out the contest. With Cleveland’s loss to the Brewers, the White Sox (81-60) dropped their magic number to clinch their first American League Central title since 2008 to 12. They have topped the division by no fewer than nine games since July 31.
They also have two more games against the AL Wild Card-leading Red Sox (80-63), which figure to have a similar playoff feel.
“There’s going to be times where guys go out there and don’t have their best stuff that day,” Kimbrel said. “But if we can do our job and come in and put out the fire when momentum’s building and things like that, that plays especially when you get into later in the year. To be able to do that tonight is a good sign.”