Potent pitching is the primary reason pundits predicted the Chicago White Sox would dethrone the Minnesota Twins as champions of the American League West.
The Chisox had a no-hitter last year from Lucas Giolito, had a capable veteran lefty in former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, and added an innings-eater during the winter by trading for Lance Lynn, who promptly justified the deal with the first complete-game shutout of the new season.
But who could have guessed that Carlos Rodón would turn out to be a hero?
On the cool Chicago night of April 14, he came within two outs of a perfect game, beating the Cleveland Indians, 8-0, at Guaranteed Rate Park (nee Comiskey). Only a hit batsman in the last inning separated Rodón from immortality.
Who woulda thunk it?
Rodón, a portly portsider, has been with the Sox since 2015 but missed most of the last full season because of Tommy John elbow surgery. He has never reached double digits in wins.
The 6-3, 250-pound lefty, non-tendered and then re-signed to a one-year deal by Chicago, suddenly has much more to add to his rather abbreviated resume.
For one thing, no other pitcher who returned from Tommy John surgery has ever thrown a hitless game less than two years after the elbow operation.
His no-hitter was the 20th in White Sox history, second only to the Los Angeles Dodgers among the 30 major-league teams. It was only the second complete game of his career – and the first since his rookie year.
The third pick in the 2014 amateur draft, the Miami native was plucked off the North Carolina State campus. He had a 4.10 lifetime earned run average entering play Wednesday night.
Rodón, 28, averaged 95 miles an hour with his 114 pitches. He actually showed his maximum velocity in the ninth, when he topped 97 with three different pitches. Only seven balls were hit hard against him.
For Rodón, the magic almost evaporated in the seventh, when switch-hitting slugger Jose Ramirez hit a scorcher to left with an exit velocity of 110.6 mph. After that ball was caught by rookie left fielder Andrew Vaughn – a first baseman moved to the position after Eloy Jiménez hurt his shoulder — Rodón started to think he had a chance. “That’s when I started kinda feeling it,” he told Jason Benetti of NBC Sports Chicago after the game.
His batterymate for the no-no was rookie Zack Collins, making the 15th start of his career in the majors.
The pitcher had a comfortable cushion from the outset, as the Sox erupted for a six-run first that knocked out Cleveland starter Zach Plesac before he could retire the side. It also marked the first time that a team managed by Terry Francona failed to get a hit in a game.
On the other hand, Chisox pilot Tony La Russa, at 76 the oldest manager in the game, is now the third man to manage no-hit games with at least three different teams, following Whitey Herzog and Fielder Jones. La Russa had not been the beneficiary of a no-hitter since 2001, when Bud Smith threw one for the Cardinals.
Rodón’s no-hitter was not the first of the 2021 season. Just five days earlier, Joe Musgrove also surprised the baseball world by working a hitless game for the San Diego Padres.
The last perfect game in the majors was thrown by Félix Hernández, then with the Seattle Mariners, against the Tampa Bay Rays on Aug. 15, 2012.
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