CHICAGO — Carlos Rodon jumped around near the mound, surrounded by exuberant teammates. All the injuries, all the uncertainty, it seemed like a lifetime ago.
From no roster spot to no-hitter – Rodon had arrived at his moment.
The left-hander threw the second no-hitter of the young baseball season Wednesday night, losing his bid for a perfect game on a hit batter with one out in the ninth inning, and the Chicago White Sox cruised to an 8-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
“It just feels good to finally sit here and tell you I dominated today, and it felt good,” Rodon said. “I’ve never really done that. I’ve never done that on this level at least, and it feels good to say I did it.”
The 28-year-old pitcher got some help from AL MVP Jose Abreu, who picked up Josh Naylor‘s slow bouncer leading off the ninth and got his toe on first base in the nick of time. The pandemic-limited crowd of 7,148, bundled up on a cool, crisp night, had to endure a quick replay review when the Indians challenged, but the call was upheld.
Rodon then plunked Roberto Perez on the back foot with an 0-2 slider – the only runner he allowed. An incredulous Rodon looked on almost in bewilderment as Perez made his way to first, asking the veteran catcher if the ball actually hit him.
It had. A perfect game saved by inches – then lost by a foot.
Rodon regained his composure in time to strike out Yu Chang looking and retire Jordan Luplow on a sharp grounder to third baseman Yoan Moncada, starting a joyous celebration. Rodon held out his arms as Moncada jumped toward him and backup catcher Zack Collins joined the impromptu party.
“That was the most incredible thing that I’ve ever been a part of behind the plate,” the 26-year-old Collins said.
Sidelined by a string of injuries throughout his career, Rodon was out of a job for a while last winter. Back in December, the White Sox declined to offer him a 2021 contract. The No. 3 pick in the 2014 amateur draft re-signed with the team as a free agent, agreeing to a one-year deal for $3 million on Feb. 1.
Looks like a pretty good call at the moment. Rodon (2-0) won a spot in the rotation in spring training and pitched five scoreless innings in his first start of the season. He was supposed to pitch Monday against Cleveland, but was scratched because of an upset stomach.
“There’s an old saying: `There’s not a lot of justice in this game, but every once in a while,”‘ Chicago manager Tony La Russa said.
“Proved to me he’s a finisher, and that’s a really good thing for his future and ours.”
It was the first no-hitter for the White Sox since Lucas Giolito pitched one Aug. 25 last year against Pittsburgh and No. 20 in franchise history, second-most among major league teams behind the Dodgers (23).
Perez made two hard outs earlier in the game and said when he came up in the ninth, he was unaware Rodon had not permitted a baserunner.
“To be honest, I didn’t really think he had a perfect game until I got hit,” Perez said. “I thought he had a no-hitter going on but I really didn’t think he had a perfect game. It’s hard, man. I’m not going to stand there and get hit, especially on a night like tonight when it was cold. But that’s just part of the game.”
Rodon’s gem came only five days after Joe Musgrove threw a no-hitter for his hometown Padres at Texas – the first no-no in club history. San Diego had been the only big league franchise without one.
Working quickly in short sleeves with the top of his jersey unbuttoned, Rodon threw 75 of 114 pitches for strikes. He struck out seven in his first major league shutout and second complete game.
It was his first home win since pitching six effective innings for a 7-3 victory over Minnesota on Aug. 22, 2018.
The game-time temperature was 45 degrees, and most of the other players wore long sleeves. But the cold didn’t appear to bother Rodon at all.
He was in control right from the start. Franmil Reyes saw eight pitches leading off the fifth, but bounced to third on a 2-2 offering. The crowd cheered loudly when Jose Ramirez lined to left on a 3-1 pitch for the final out of the seventh.
“He kind of overwhelmed us,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Rodon was helped by a six-run first inning that included another long homer by rookie Yermin Mercedes, one of baseball’s biggest surprises early in the season.
With one out and runners on the corners, Mercedes turned on Zach Plesac‘s fastball and drove it an estimated 431 feet to left for his third homer. He went 3 for 5 to run his batting average to .500 (19 for 38).
Leury Garcia hit an RBI double and scored on Nick Madrigal‘s single before Francona pulled Plesac (1-2) with two outs. It was the shortest start of his career.
“This has been the toughest game, day, of my entire career so far,” Plesac said. “Minor leagues, big leagues, high school, college, anything. It hurts, man.”
IT’S HAPPENED BEFORE
In 2015, Washington ace Max Scherzer was one strike from a perfect game against Pittsburgh when he hit Jose Tabata with a 2-2 pitch. Scherzer retired the next batter for a no-hitter.
Indians: Perez was in the starting lineup a day after he got crossed up with reliever James Karinchak in the 10th inning and ended up catching a pitch barehanded.
White Sox: RHP Dylan Cease was placed on the injured list and RHP Zack Burdi was recalled from the team’s alternate site. Cease has some symptoms associated with COVID-19, but general manager Rick Hahn said the pitcher hasn’t tested positive. The team is working on a plan in case Cease is unable to pitch Friday at Boston. … OF Adam Engel (strained right hamstring) thinks he could return during the next homestand beginning April 23. Engel got hurt during spring training and had a setback during rehab, but said he is feeling much better.
Right-handers Aaron Civale and Lance Lynn pitch in the series finale Thursday afternoon. Civale (2-0, 2.45 ERA) tossed 7 2/3 innings of three-hit ball in Cleveland’s 11-3 victory over Detroit on Saturday. Lynn (1-0, 0.00) is coming off his second career shutout, striking out 11 during a 6-0 victory over Kansas City in Chicago’s home opener last week.