After two ugly starts and a quick hook that left nobody happy, Carlos Rodon needed to reestablish his presence in the rotation for everybody's good.
Consider it done. Rodon set career highs with innings (seven) and strikeouts (11), while allowing just four hits and a walk over seven scoreless innings. Add up all of those factors, and it's the best start of Rodon's young career by far (game score: 79).
It all started so ominously, too. Rodon opened the game by issuing that lone walk, and then Kole Calhoun singled to bring Mike Trout to the plate. Trout had gotten the better of Chris Sale during their head-to-head matchups on Monday, and he picked up where he left off by working the count full. However, Rodon flipped the script by confusing Trout with a backdoor slider for strike three. He then took care of Albert Pujols with a nasty front-door slider down and in, and retired Erick Aybar on a flyout to end the threat.
While that inning took 26 pitches to endure, Rodon survived the worst. Over his next six innings, Rodon allowed just three hits, and as a result, he didn't need more than 16 pitches in any other frame.
Not by total coincidence, Tyler Flowers was behind the plate. Updating Rodon's ERA by catcher:
- Flowers: 2.86
- Geovany Soto: 9.12
For the first three innings, Rodon had to post zeroes to keep pace with Hector Santiago, who went nine up, nine down with efficiency.
The second time through the order was a different story. With one out, Tyler Saladino canceled the postgame show with an infield single. Santiago then hit Jose Abreu in the forearm/chest for Abreu's 12th HBP of the year (he had 11 all of last year), and Melky Cabrera avenged the plunking by drilling a double to the left center gap to score both runners.
That ended up being all the runs Rodon needed, but Trayce Thompson tacked on one more with his first career homer, a solo shot off Santiago left of center in the fifth. He received the silent treatment for his effort:
That run did make the eighth inning easier to tolerate. Zach Duke started the inning, but with one out, he gave up a single to Shane Victorino and a walk to Calhoun to bring Trout to the plate with one out, which prompted Robin Ventura to bring in Jake Petricka.
Abreu saved a run by ranging right to glove Trout's grounder, but Alexei Ramirez dropped the throw for an inexplicable E-6 to load the bases. Fortunately, Petricka had his shortstop's back. He got ahead of Pujols to make him expand his zone, which resulted in Pujols bouncing a low sinker off the plate. Petricka charged (it was closer to the plate than the mound) and flipped to Flowers for the force, and Flowers had enough time to get Pujols by a half-step at first for the inning-ending 1-2-3 double play.
David Robertson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 23rd save.
*Trout and Pujols went 0-for-8 with four strikeouts (all of them Rodon's). Tyler Saladino contributed to Trout's 0-fer with a nice sliding stab and throw.
*Trout retrieved Thompson's first home run ball, then gave the fan another ball in return.