BOSTON -- Carlos Rodon's 2018 debut during Boston's 4-2 victory over the White Sox on Saturday at Fenway Park should be classified as very good.
Things would have gone even better with a little defensive support for the southpaw, who has been on the rehab trail after season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder last September. It was Rodon's first start since Sept. 2, 2017, against the Rays.
"We didn't help ourselves," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "Carlos didn't throw the ball as bad as it might have looked in terms of his outing."
"I'm just happy to get through it and be healthy," Rodon said. "Obviously, I wish I would have made some better pitches and got ahead of guys. I fell behind and that led to some more pitches and just have to get ahead of guys and get those early outs."
Rodon worked five innings and 97 pitches, striking out seven and walking two. He allowed four runs but only two were earned due to three errors made behind him. His afternoon began with a walk to Andrew Benintendi followed by a fielding error committed by Tim Anderson on a Xander Bogaerts' grounder and a second miscue on Yoan Moncada's throw to first on J.D. Martinez's potential double-play grounder. Anderson didn't make a perfect flip on that Martinez grounder, and Moncada's throw after he caught the toss barehanded bounced past Jose Abreu's outstretched glove allowing Benintendi to score.
"He had time to make that play," said Renteria of Moncada's throw.
The game was tied at 2 when Abreu made a throw behind Rodon covering first to allow Bogaerts to reach base opening the fifth. Martinez followed by connecting on an 0-1 changeup for a two-run home run, giving the Red Sox their first lead of the day.
"Yeah, popped out. Wish it would have got over a little more," Rodon said. "We went at him with changeups earlier in the game and that one, good hitter, saw it up, let it get deep. Bad pitch, bad mistake."
"It was just a changeup up," Martinez said. "Up and away I think it was, and just put a good swing on it, really."
According to Statcast™, Rodon topped out at 96.7 mph with his fastball. He had 10 swinging strikes off the fastball and four off his slider, which he established later in his outing after being primarily fastball/changeup over the first three innings. Rodon struck out the side in both the third and the fourth, doing so in the third after facing a first-and-third, nobody-out situation.
"You can see even when he misses his spots, he's still getting swing and misses, he's still getting missed barrels," White Sox catcher Kevan Smith said. "We just need to hone in on certain situations. I think he did a great job of getting some ground balls in big situations and he's happy he went five, but obviously he always wants to go a little longer. He did well."
David Price gave up two runs to the White Sox in the first via Smith's groundout and Abreu's 24th double of the season. But the White Sox didn't score again off of Price and three relievers. Rodon took the loss, getting his first decision in three starts against the Red Sox.
"It's good to be back. There are some things I wish I would have done better in that outing," Rodon said. "Get ahead of guys.
"There were a lot of 1-0, 2-0. I remember throwing a lot of 2-1 changeups. I have a good changeup, but I'm a fastball/slider guy. When I get ahead, I can throw those two pitches. You can't fall behind hitters like this, especially this lineup. They can do some damage."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mound ready: After getting hit in the head with a line drive during a May 24th injury rehab start against Norfolk, Rodon quipped he would be a little more aware on the mound. That awareness paid off in the fifth inning Saturday. Rodon snared Rafael Devers' hard-hit grounder up the middle with Eduardo Nunez on third and one out and caught Nunez off third. Rodon chased Nunez back to the base and tagged him for the second out, eventually getting out of the fifth without further damage.
Right is wrong: Moncada has struggled mightily from the right side this season, with the switch-hitter now 9-for-58 with 25 strikeouts. He had a chance to make up for past misses in the sixth with runners on first and third, two outs and the White Sox trailing by two, but instead Moncada struck out swinging against Price to end the frame.
"It's him being able to get enough at-bats on that side to give him an opportunity to see more pitches, give him a chance to recognize from that side of the box," said Renteria of Moncada hitting right-handed. "That will come in time.
"I would venture to say as his career continues to evolve and the more at-bats he ends up having over a period of time, you will see an improvement from year to year. It's not unheard of. It's happened. And it will happen for him. He is that good."
Abreu was 1-for-2 with runners in scoring position and is 11 for his last 25 with RISP. He's batting .346 in such situations this season.
HE SAID IT
"Carlos has that killer eye in his look whenever he starts getting a little geeked up when he's about to throw some stuff that is going to be unhittable. I always love that part about him. He's competitive. He's always going to go at guys. If something doesn't go his way, he's going to bear down. He's going to rear back and give you everything you he has." --Smith, on Rodon working out of the fourth-inning jam
Reynaldo Lopez, who pitched more than well enough to win during his last start against Minnesota on Tuesday, takes the mound for Sunday's series finale with a 12:05 p.m. CT first pitch. Lopez allowed one hit and four walks over seven innings against the Twins, while striking out four. Rick Porcello will pitch for the Red Sox.