"He was great," manager Robin Ventura said. "Even innings there where they started to get some guys on and it got a little dicey. He's just finding a way to reach and find something else, another level, and that's just part of growing and understanding yourself as his career goes on."
Rodon appears to be growing up as a pitcher in his second Major League season. Despite allowing two runs on two hits and an error in the first, Rodon was sharp again. After settling into a rhythm, he dominated from the second inning to the fifth and finished his performance with a critical strikeout of Paulo Orlando to leave the bases loaded in the sixth.
It was the third time Rodon whiffed Orlando -- his season-high ninth strikeout. It was also a major confidence booster to look over at Ventura in the dugout and see him stand his ground after Whit Merrifield singled to loaded the bases.
"It's huge," Rodon said of facing Orlando. "[It] helps me build my confidence, as well. I'm glad he trusted me to get that last guy out. No matter how many pitches there are, I always want to get that last out for the team."
Rodon got it on his 116th pitch and his 76th strike thrown, which was one pitch after he buzzed a fastball in to Orlando at 99 mph. Rodon has always had a high-velocity fastball and devastating slider, which he used to become one of the most coveted prospects eligible for the 2014 Draft.
The trick part has been learning how and when to use all of his tools at the Major League level. Following a wrist injury that sidelined him for almost all of July, Rodon has started to put the puzzle together in his past seven starts. He's gone 5-0 with a 1.85 ERA and 40 strikeouts in those outings, and his victory on Friday was his fifth straight, also a career high.
"This year, it's just been better," Ventura said. "I think in his last six or seven, there's just been something else to him and more substance to it. He's learning a lot about himself in tougher situations and knowing he can get through it."
Having rookie catcher Omar Narvaez behind the plate seems to have helped, as well. They first worked together in the Minor Leagues and picked up where they left off when Narvaez was called up and caught the first game in Rodon's streak of quality starts.
"I first threw to Omar my first year of pro ball when I got moved up to High-A and got comfortable with him there," Rodon said. "Other than being a great baseball player, he's a great person outside the field. It's a blessing to have him back there."