Carlos Rodón’s slider has always been an effective pitch, either twisting opposing hitters into the ground as they wave at it or freezing them in place as it dives into and out of the zone.
Even at times when the offspeed stuff isn’t quite as effective as it has been – like during his last start, against Toronto -- Rodón still managed to collect eight punchouts and hold the Blue Jays to one run through five innings.
Sunday’s 4-1 win that secured a three-game sweep against the Tigers at Comerica Park on Sunday afternoon was a different story entirely, as Rodón took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. His four-seamer routinely flirted with 99 mph on the radar gun, providing a perfect setup pitch for a slider that ducked, dove and confounded Detroit batters over his seven frames.
“It seemed like from the first pitch, the first inning, everything was in sync as far as delivery, ball just jumped out of his hand, he commanded three pitches,” manager Tony La Russa said. “And he kept it up through seven innings. He was outstanding.”
Rodón was efficient as well. He needed just three pitches -- the first two at high heat, followed by that nasty slider -- to dispose of future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera in the fourth. Rodón wasn’t dead set on adding to his punchout totals, though, facing just one hitter over the minimum in his first 5 2/3 innings and retiring five Tigers on 10 pitches at one point.
Perhaps even more impressive, Rodón appeared to gain steam as he went, uncorking a 99.8 mph fastball in the fifth inning, then mowing down the Tigers with several more against his finishing pitch, a mid-80s slider. He drew 22 swings and misses, and seven of his nine strikeouts on the day came via the slider.
“It was just one of those days that I was feeling pretty good,” Rodón said. “Had good command of the fastball, slider. Zack [Collins] called a great game, and we just did what we needed to do.
“I feel like today, my stuff was better than [my no-hitter]. But [the Tigers] still made me work. They took me into a couple of 3-2 counts late in the game.”
As crisp as Rodón has been this season -- lest we forget, he threw a no-hitter on April 14, in his second start of the season -- he’s often fallen victim to lack of run support. Entering Sunday, Rodón had not received a decision in three of his past five starts, going 0-2 with a 3.45 ERA. Over that span, he had 44 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings and a .239 opponents’ average, but received zero runs of support in three of those outings.
The White Sox made sure to take care of their starter on Sunday. An RBI single from José Abreu in the fourth inning got Chicago moving, and Leury García doubled in another in the fifth. The White Sox plated two in the sixth on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch and a walk to give Rodón a little freedom to remain aggressive on the mound.
“You watched the way Rodón is pitching, right?” La Russa said. “Every run you get is gold.”
Entering the seventh with grim determination etched on his face and the same guy behind the plate who caught his first no-no, Rodón was on his mark. He rang up Cabrera on another slider that produced a called third strike, and was eight outs away from becoming the 36th pitcher in MLB history to throw multiple no-hitters, and just the seventh to accomplish the feat twice in a single season.
And just like that, the bid was over. Eric Haase lined a pitch into the left-field corner that Rodón followed with his eyes, shouting encouragement to outfielder Andrew Vaughn, who had no choice but to play the carom off the wall as Haase pulled up safely at second base.
A wild pitch from Rodón moved Haase to third, and he scored on a Niko Goodrum sacrifice fly to spoil the shutout. Rodón responded by coaxing Isaac Paredes to fly out to end the frame and his outing on a high note.
“[Rodón] had pretty nasty stuff,” Collins said. “It kind of turns into a video game for me back there. Everything he throws is pretty much swing-and-miss. He's got an upper 90s fastball, [he’s] got that wipeout slider; I can't really call anything wrong.”