Just after the MLB lockout ended in March, the SF Giants made a big move to bolster their chances of repeating as National League West champions and making a run at the World Series: signing one of the top free agent pitchers available, left-hander Carlos Rodon.
This season hasn't gone as planned, with the team falling well out of contention for the division over the last month but still within view of a playoff spot as a Wild Card entrant. Rodon has been as advertised, though, and Sunday he further proved his ability to shut down an opponent - an outing that could bring the Giants a healthy return should they decide to trade the southpaw.
In a game certainly watched closely by general managers of contending teams around the big leagues, Rodon was masterful. In a 4-0 Giants victory over the Chicago Cubs, he tossed seven shutout innings with just two hits allowed and 10 strikeouts for his ninth win of the season.
The two hits were the only baserunners allowed by Rodon; both were two out singles, one in the first inning and the other in the fourth.
Rodon's shutout pitching was almost negated on the fifth pitch of the contest, as Cubs leadoff hitter Christopher Morel launched a 2-2 offering destined for the left-field bleachers...before Giants left fielder Luis Gonzalez saved the day:
The play set the tone for a much-maligned defense, which had hurt San Francisco and even cost the team some games in the last month, to play errorless ball behind Rodon.
Offensively, the Orange and Black were kept off the board in all but one inning despite getting nine hits.
SF Giants put up a four-spot in the fourth
After putting runners on base in the first and third, the fourth opened with a pair of outs and it looked like another unproductive frame. Lamonte Wade Jr. served as the catalyst, however, by taking a four-pitch walk. Mike Yastrzemski singled to right and new acquisition Dixon Machado, picked up from the Cubs earlier in the day thanks to the Giants' dearth of available shortstops, was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Rodon exited the game after seven innings, having thrown 98 pitches, and after John Brebbia tossed a scoreless (but somewhat-stressful) eighth inning Camilo Doval shut the door with a dominant ninth including two strikeouts.
The win gave the Giants their first series victory since the All-Star break, as they took three of four from the Cubs. It also brought the team back to a .500 record. San Francisco is over 15 games out of first place in the NL West, but at just four games from a Wild Card spot they could still be buyers before Tuesday's trade deadline and attempt to make the playoffs and see if the team hits their stride at the right time.
The Giants remain home Monday through Thursday, as they welcome the Dodgers into town for a four-game series.