Almost perfect: Rod贸n settles for no-hitter after HBP in 9th

Sports

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodon, center, celebrates his no hitter against the Cleveland Indians with his teammates in a baseball game, Wednesday, April, 14, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)

CHICAGO (AP) 鈥 Carlos Rod贸n 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 鈥 Rod贸n 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.

鈥淚t just feels good to finally sit here and tell you I dominated today, and it felt good,鈥 Rod贸n said. 鈥淚’ve never really done that. I’ve never done that on this level at least, and it feels good to say I did it.鈥

The 28-year-old pitcher got some help from AL MVP Jos茅 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.

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodon (55) reacts after striking out Cleveland Indians’ Amed Rosario to end the eighth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, April, 14, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)

Rod贸n then plunked Roberto P茅rez on the back foot with an 0-2 slider 鈥 the only runner he allowed. An incredulous Rod贸n looked on almost in bewilderment as P茅rez made his way to first, asking the veteran catcher if the ball actually hit him.

It had. A perfect game saved by inches 鈥 then lost by a foot.

Rod贸n regained his composure in time to strike out Yu Chang looking and retire Jordan Luplow on a sharp grounder to third baseman Yo谩n Moncada, starting a joyous celebration. Rod贸n held out his arms as Moncada jumped toward him and backup catcher Zack Collins joined the impromptu party.

鈥淭hat was the most incredible thing that I鈥檝e ever been a part of behind the plate,鈥 the 26-year-old Collins said.

Sidelined by a string of arm injuries throughout his career, Rod贸n 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. Rod贸n (2-0) won a spot in the rotation in spring training and pitched five scoreless innings in his first start of the season.

鈥淭here’s an old saying: 鈥楾here鈥檚 not a lot of justice in this game, but every once in a while,’鈥 Chicago manager Tony La Russa said.

鈥淧roved to me he’s a finisher, and that’s a really good thing for his future and ours.鈥

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 Los Angeles Dodgers (23).

P茅rez made two hard outs earlier in the game and said when he came up in the ninth, he was unaware Rod贸n had not permitted a baserunner.

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodon, center, celebrates his no hitter against the Cleveland Indians with his teammates in a baseball game, Wednesday, April, 14, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)

“To be honest, I didn鈥檛 really think he had a perfect game until I got hit,鈥 P茅rez said. 鈥淚 thought he had a no-hitter going on but I really didn鈥檛 think he had a perfect game. It鈥檚 hard, man. I鈥檓 not going to stand there and get hit, especially on a night like tonight when it was cold. But that鈥檚 just part of the game.鈥

Rod贸n鈥檚 gem came only five days after Joe Musgrove threw a no-hitter for his hometown Padres at Texas 鈥 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, Rod贸n 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鈥檛 appear to bother Rod贸n 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 Jos茅 Ram铆rez lined to left on a 3-1 pitch for the final out of the seventh.

鈥淗e kind of overwhelmed us,鈥 Indians manager Terry Francona said.

Rod贸n was helped by a six-run first inning that included another long homer by rookie Yermin Mercedes, one of baseball鈥檚 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 Garc铆a hit an RBI double and scored on Nick Madrigal鈥檚 single before Francona pulled Plesac (1-2) with two outs. It was the shortest start of his career.

鈥淭his has been the toughest game, day, of my entire career so far,鈥 Plesac said. 鈥淢inor leagues, big leagues, high school, college, anything. It hurts, man.鈥

IT’S HAPPENED BEFORE

In 2015, Washington ace Max Scherzer was one strike from a perfect game against Pittsburgh when he hit Jos茅 Tabata with a 2-2 pitch. Scherzer retired the next batter for a no-hitter.

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