QUEENS, New York — With every fastball launched out of Carlos Rodón’s left hand, the Giants’ chances of leaving their doubleheader sweep behind and embarking on a new winning streak looked better and better.
That’s because Giants hitters provided the power-pitching left-hander ample support before he even took the mound Wednesday evening at Citi Field, and once he did, there was little the Mets could do to touch Rodón. With a 5-2 win Wednesday, the Giants improved to 8-4 and avoided dropping their first series of the year, with a chance to secure a split in the matinee finale of the four-game set Thursday.
The Giants brought eight hitters to the plate in the first inning and scored three runs, enough for Rodón and a combination of four relievers to secure a win. Brandon Belt celebrated his 34th birthday the next inning, upper-tanking a ball to right field that made it 4-0, his first hit in 19 previous at-bats on his birthday, and Mike Yastrzemski added an RBI single in the fourth — important insurance as the Mets rallied for two runs against John Brebbia, Dominic Leone and Tyler Rogers, before Jake McGee recorded the save.
Rodón pounded fastballs to the tune of four in every five pitches he threw. Of the 95 total pitches it took him to complete five shutout innings, 75 were fastballs (81%). Even for a hurler who pitches off his fastball, it was excessive — but also effective.
It’s hard to argue with the results.
Rodón recorded swings and misses on 17 of those fastballs and lowered his ERA this season to 1.06 — the fifth-lowest mark of all qualified starters. His eight punchouts increased his season total through three starts to 29, still more than any other pitcher in the majors. Only once did the Mets get a runner past second base against the Giants starter, after Eduardo Escobar doubled and advanced to third with two outs. How did Rodón escape? By powering a 97 mph four-seamer past the letters of J.D. Davis, of course.
But with rallies in the seventh and eighth innings against the Giants bullpen, the Mets threatened to erase Rodón’s strong start. Leone surrendered an RBI single to the first batter he faced in the seventh, and a Mark Canha single off Rogers scored Pete Alonso for the Mets’ second run in the eighth. Their night was saved by two tremendous defensive plays.
The Mets had runners at the corners with two outs after Starling Marte singled home Luis Guillorme in the seventh, but the threat was vanquished with one laser from the arm of catcher Joey Bart, who nabbed Marte trying to swipe second. And the Mets were threatening again in the eighth, with runners on second and third, when pinch-hitter Dominic Smith laced a ball down the third-base line that was destined to drive in two runs. But Wilmer Flores leaped and snatched the ball out of midair to end the inning.
It was clear the Mets appreciated the change of pace from Rodón’s steady diet of upper-90s fastballs.
Over the course of his career, Rodón has typically thrown his four-seamer on between 40% and 60% of his pitches. That rate has risen over the past few seasons but never climbed higher than 58.7% last season, according to Statcast.
Rodón’s slider had acted as his out pitch — with 3-plus inches of break above the MLB average in both directions (vertically and horizontally) — getting whiffs on it 40% of the time last season and limiting hitters to a .107 batting average against the pitch.
Rodón showed off how effective the mix-and-match of his upper-90s heater and that wipeout slider can be in his first start with the Giants, recording more swings and misses (24) than all but three other pitchers in the Statcast era (since 2008).
But since that start, he has trended away from the slider.
On Wednesday, he gave heavy preference to his fastball.
In his last start, striking out nine and allowing one run over seven innings against the Guardians, Rodón broke out the curveball he had been refining in spring training, throwing the new pitch almost half as often as his bread-and-butter slider while still hurling a heavy dose of heaters.
Rodón has made a case to be considered among the game’s elite starting pitchers with his start to the season, after finishing fifth in AL Cy Young voting last year. But his counterpart entered Wednesday’s game carrying an impressive recent track record of his own.
Mets starter Chris Bassitt was riding a streak of six starts without allowing more than three hits, dating back to last August. By the end of the first inning, the Giants had ensured it wouldn’t reach seven — and provided more than enough padding to back up another excellent outing by Rodon to contain their losing streak to one day (and two games).
Source: Culled From Paradise Post.