Going for his second no-hitter in the 2021 season, Rodon’s attempt at a historic mark — only five pitchers have thrown two no-hitters in a single regular season — was spoiled by Tigers hometown slugger Eric Haase.
Haase doubled to left field with one out in the seventh inning, just past the outstretched glove of Andrew Vaughn.
“He was executing, and he was on today,” Haase said. “Just to be able to grind out that at-bat. I think it was eight pitches before he finally threw something over the plate. Even then, it was a one-hand, hit it where they aren’t kind of deal. Obviously, happy that it fell.”
Still, the Tigers (26-39) lost 4-1 to the White Sox in Sunday’s series finale at Comerica Park. Detroit has dropped 17 of its past 19 games in the matchup, dating back to last season. The most recent loss wraps up a three-game sweep for the White Sox, in first place in the American League Central with a 41-24 record.
The Tigers have not been no-hit since Sept. 29, 2013, when Henderson Alvarez pitched his gem at Marlins Park in Miami. There hasn’t been a no-hitter at Comerica Park since Justin Verlander did so against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 12, 2007.
The Tigers relied on six relievers in the loss: Kyle Funkhouser (2⅔ innings), Tyler Alexander (2⅓ innings), Buck Farmer (one inning), Joe Jimenez (one inning), Bryan Garcia (one inning) and Gregory Soto (one inning). It was a bullpen-only game to provide starters Matthew Boyd, Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal extra rest before they face the Kansas City Royals.
But Rodon owned the pitcher’s mound.
Before Haase’s double, the only Detroit batters to reach base were Isaac Paredes in the second inning and Robbie Grossman in the sixth inning. Both players drew walks. Paredes got to second base on a force out. Grossman, who took his walk with two outs, didn’t reach scoring position.
Before Haase’s double, the hardest balls in play against Rodon came from Harold Castro’s bat. He logged a 94.8 mph exit velocity for his fly out in the third inning and a 94.6 mph exit velocity for his ground out in the sixth.
Rodon completed seven innings, giving up one run on one hit and two walks. He struck out nine batters and threw 70 of 103 pitches for strikes. He recorded 22 swings and misses, including 15 with his four-seam fastball and six with his slider.
“He was really good,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “Probably as good of a left-handed starting pitcher as we’ve seen all year. He’s been dominant across the league, but especially today. He was overpowering. We couldn’t really get anything started against him. He dominated us.”
The Tigers scored their lone run from Niko Goodrum’s sacrifice fly — after Haase advanced to third base because of a wild pitch. Chicago’s bullpen, featuring Evan Marshall and Liam Hendriks, pitched perfect eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
Starting with Funk
Funkhouser walked Brian Goodwin with one out in the first inning, but responded by getting grounders from Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu. He stranded Goodwin at second base. Then, he retired all three batters he faced in the second.
Funkhouser threw strikes, something he has mastered this season after struggling in 2020, which featured his MLB debut and a 7.27 ERA across 17⅓ innings. This was Funkhouser’s first start in his big-league career, which spans 27 appearances.
“I tried to make it as much of a relief appearance as possible,” Funkhouser said. “I went to the bullpen at like 12:40 (p.m.) and did my routine. I got up right before the anthem, got loose and threw about 15-20 pitches. Juan (Nieves, assistant pitching coach) was like, ‘Hey, you’re throwing the ninth inning, and it’s tied 0-0.’ I played it like that.”
In the third, Zack Collins singled on a fastball from Funkhouser and Danny Mendick struck out swinging at a 96 mph fastball. Funkhouser got Leury Garcia to ground into a force out to complete two of three outs. That’s when manager AJ Hinch summoned Alexander from the bullpen.
Funkhouser fired 22 of 33 pitches for strikes.
“He gave us as much as he could,” Hinch said. “I could have left him out a little longer, but I’m trying to manage for the next series.”
The rest of the ‘pen
After Funkhouser and Alexander, the Tigers didn’t have many options available in the bullpen. In Saturday’s 15-2 loss to the White Sox, Hinch was forced to send five pitchers and two position players to the mound.
This time, the relievers were much better.
Still, the results weren’t enough to win. The White Sox scored first on a single from Abreu in the fourth inning, just after Alexander allowed a leadoff double to Moncada. In the fifth, a Mendick single and Garcia double gave Chicago a 2-0 lead.
Alexander allowed two runs on four hits. He struck out three and did not concede a walk.
Farmer struggled with his command. The White Sox took a 4-0 lead in the sixth inning because he hit two batters. His second hit-by-pitch came with the bases loaded, then he walked Garcia with the bases loaded.
Called up from Triple-A Toledo on Sunday morning, Farmer allowed two runs on two hits and one walk, with two strikeouts. Jimenez pitched a scoreless seventh, working around Abreu’s one-out double to center.
“He had a hard time controlling the inning,” Hinch said about Farmer. “A couple of free passes that created an inning for himself and had to pitch out of a mess. I thought he competed well. Getting him right in there today was the plan. That’s why we called him up, and we needed the arm.
“I wanted him to go maybe one-plus (innings), but he used up a lot of pitches trying to get out of the bases-loaded jam that he created. His stuff has a little life to it, which was encouraging. Wasn’t a clean inning, which is what we were hoping for.”
Garcia avoided damage, despite two singles, in the eighth inning. Soto allowed a walk and a single in his scoreless ninth.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.