Rodón has craft, credentials to lead Giants to postseason

Victorious after lefty's 8th double-digit-K game, club has every opportunity to find its way

August 24th, 2022

DETROIT -- The Giants have all the elements of a playoff contender, but they’ve missed the consistency this season that would help them firmly latch onto an NL Wild Card spot. Now, as the calendar nears September, is the time to step up or go home early.

knows that drill all too well, having guided the White Sox to postseason berths in each of the past two seasons. With the finish line in sniffing distance yet again, he’s ready to do what it takes to get the Giants back there, too.

The veteran left-hander proved as much during the Giants’ 3-1 win over the Tigers in the opener of a two-game series Tuesday night at Comerica Park.

“It’s a really nice feeling for our clubhouse to know that every fifth day, he's going to go out there and take the ball and likely put on a good performance, give us a chance to win the baseball game,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “… We have high expectations for the starters because they've set the bar pretty high.”

Four teams sit ahead of San Francisco in the Wild Card chase, and the Giants will see them all in the upcoming weeks, including three games against the Phillies (Sept. 2-4), two against the Brewers (a doubleheader Sept. 8), three against the Braves (Sept. 12-14)  and six against the Padres (Aug. 29-31 and Oct. 3-5). There’s definitely both time and opportunity to do damage and climb into contention, but the Giants will need to start now and take advantage of the weaker teams remaining on their schedule, such as the Tigers.

“We need to get rolling here and get hot at just the right time,” Kapler said. “I think it's within reach for us, but we're going to have to play really, really good baseball down the stretch. We have the talent, and we believe in the players in this room. We’ve got to get it done.”

Rodón played his role to a T, throwing seven innings of one-run ball and striking out 10. Backed by early offense -- San Francisco scored a run in the first inning on a two-out single from -- and buoyed by a two-run homer in the sixth from , Rodón was free to be aggressive with the Tigers.

The result was an average exit velocity against him of just 84.2 mph, and that was when Detroit could connect at all: Rodón drew 23 swings and misses on Tuesday: 17 on his four-seamer and six on his slider.

He faced the minimum through 4 2/3 innings, scattering five hits -- all singles -- walking none and reaching double-digit strikeouts for the eighth time this season. The lefty is the first Giants starter to do so since Tim Lincecum in 2009.

The two-time All-Star held himself to a high standard from start to finish, pounding his glove in frustration in the sixth when he dropped the throw after a footrace to first against Tigers leadoff hitter Riley Greene, who earned a two-out single on the play. Rodón’s wild pitch to Victor Reyes then allowed Greene to advance to scoring position before Reyes went down swinging on an 86.1 mph slider.

No one’s surprised that Rodón strung together another stellar outing, because he’s been the same dependable arm all season long. He’s been even hotter of late, having steadily dropped his ERA since July 26, a span of five outings during which he’s pitched to a 1.44 ERA and held opponents to a .177 batting average. He also set a career high in strikeouts for the season, with 189 -- surpassing his previous high of 185, set in 2021.

But the Giants' ace is focused on more than individual numbers. And right now, more than any other, is the perfect time for that.

“There’s another baseball game tomorrow to be won, and it’s going to be one of those things where it’s a day-by-day thing, and hopefully, we look up at the end and we’ve made the playoffs,” Rodón said. “… A lot of guys in this room -- almost all of them -- have been in the postseason.

“Some guys have won the World Series … and some guys have been in the World Series. That’s what you dream of as a kid. I think we all want that.”