PITTSBURGH — In the fifth and final inning of his start two weeks ago in Philadelphia, something clicked for Carlos Rodón. Ever since, he has been the lights-out fireballer who showed up to start the season.
In a 2-0 win Friday over the Pirates to open a seven-game road swing, an especially efficient Rodón completed eight innings for the first time this season and worked into the seventh for the first time since his second start. For the first 4⅔, he didn’t allow a hit. And for all eight, Pittsburgh couldn’t muster one run, or really come all that close.
Behind the Rodón-led effort Friday, Giants pitchers held their opponent to two or fewer runs for the seventh time in their past nine games, boasting a 1.21 ERA over their past 82 innings. Their only losses in that span were also the only games their pitching faltered (ever so slightly, with games of three and four runs allowed).
The recent stretch of strong pitching has allowed San Francisco to win seven of nine while getting only 3.33 runs, on average, from its lineup. On Friday, two solo shots were enough to start a seven-game trip on a positive note.
Luis González belted the third pitch of the game from Pirates starter Zach Thompson out of the ballpark entirely, landing 389 feet away, beyond the right-field boxes and just short of the Allegheny River. Three innings later, Joc Pederson led off the fourth by turning on a 1-1 changeup to extend the Giants’ lead to 2-0.
González’s was the Giants’ fourth leadoff home run this season — and second this week, after Austin Slater’s Sunday against the Dodgers — while Pederson’s team-leading 14th homer marked the club’s eighth straight jack without a runner on base.
Lots has changed since Rodón’s outing at Citizens Bank Park on June 1.
The Giants were stuck in a downward spiral that put them as far as 7.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West. Their loss that day, after Rodón came out of the game, was their eighth in a stretch during which they dropped nine of 14.
After Friday’s win in Pittsburgh, the Giants have won six of their past seven and pulled with 4.5 games of the division lead.
A small part of that has been a rekindled Rodón, who found himself in the fifth inning of that ballgame.
Rodón had struggled to miss bats for a string of three starts and took a 3.60 ERA into the game — a high-water mark for the season. Through four inefficient innings, Rodón had generated only six swings and misses. Then, in the fifth, he struck out the side, mowing through the middle of the Phillies’ order — with nine whiffs. In one inning.
On Friday, Rodón was the same swing-and-miss pitcher.
Including that fifth inning in Philadelphia, Rodón has allowed two earned runs over his past 19 innings while striking out 24. He hasn’t allowed a run over his past 15 frames.
In eight shutout innings Friday, Rodón struck out eight and allowed just four base runners — two walks, two hits and only one who advanced past first base. While generating 16 swings and misses, Rodón lowered his ERA below 3.00 for the first time since his eight-run outing in St. Louis that acted as the first sign things were out of whack.
He had faced the minimum while recording the first 14 outs of the game. The only base runner the Pirates could muster against him was a second-inning walk to Daniel Vogelbach, who was quickly erased via a double play.
Jack Suwinski broke up the no-hit bid with a single in the fifth, after Rodón had pumped 97 mph heat past Diego Castillo for the second out of the inning. A walk to the next batter forced Suwinski to second base, the only runner Pittsburgh got into scoring position against Rodón.