SAN FRANCISCO — Left-hander Carlos Rodón was as advertised in his Giants debut on Saturday afternoon.
Rodón struck out 12 over five dominant innings in his first career start at Oracle Park, but he didn’t get much help from his offense or defense in a 2-1 loss to the Marlins.
Steven Duggar put the Giants on the board with a game-tying RBI double off Miami right-hander Pablo López in the fifth inning, but Jesús Sánchez countered with a go-ahead single off veteran lefty Jake McGee in the seventh to hand San Francisco its first loss of the 2022 campaign. The Giants, who are missing a trio of regulars in Evan Longoria, LaMonte Wade Jr. and Tommy La Stella, mustered only five hits and struck out 14 times against López and four Marlins relievers.
Rodón, 29, did not factor into the decision after giving up one run on three hits and two walks in the 89-pitch outing. His 12 strikeouts tied Hall of Famer Juan Marichal for the second-most by a pitcher in his Giants debut, trailing only Cliff Melton, who racked up 13 in a complete-game effort against the Boston Bees in 1937.
“Carlos was just electric,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It was as good a Giants debut as any of us could have hoped for.”
Rodón leaned on his fastball-slider combination to overpower the Marlins’ lineup, topping out at 98.9 mph and inducing 24 swinging strikes, the fourth-most by a pitcher through five innings since the arrival of the pitch-tracking era in 2008.
“I think Joey [Bart] and I worked well together,” Rodón said. “We put together some good sequences. It was overall a good day as far as the outing. But I’m just not happy. I wish we would have won that game.”
Rodón, who was signed to a two-year, $44 million contract to fill the void left at the top of the rotation by the departure of All-Star Kevin Gausman, had never pitched in San Francisco prior to Saturday, as he spent the first seven years of his career in the American League Central with the White Sox. He announced his arrival with a sizzling first inning, retiring Jorge Soler, Garrett Cooper and Jesús Aguilar on 10 straight fastballs, none of which were under 97 mph.
Rodón worked around a one-out double to Miguel Rojas to post a scoreless second, but the Marlins opened the scoring in the third with the help of some sloppy defense from the Giants, who have now committed four errors and several mental mistakes over their first two games of 2022.
Jon Berti reached on a one-out infield single and took second on a throwing error from Wilmer Flores, who is filling in at third base for the injured Longoria. Bart nearly picked off Berti when he took off for third on a wild pitch, but Flores couldn’t hang on to the ball while applying the tag, allowing Berti to advance safely.
“I think there’s a little bit of rust,” Kapler said. “I don’t want to make any excuses for anybody, but Flo is dealing with some stuff that’s going on for him off the field and that may be weighing on his mind. That’s a possibility.”
Rodón subsequently struck out Soler on a slider in the dirt, but the pitch squirted away from Bart, bringing in Berti from third and giving the Marlins a 1-0 lead.
Rodón didn’t give up any more damage the rest of the way, though he had to dig deep to get through his final inning after issuing back-to-back walks to Berti and Soler with two outs in the fifth. The Giants had John Brebbia warming in the bullpen as Rodón neared his 90-pitch limit, but Rodón managed to escape the jam by striking out Cooper swinging on a 98 mph fastball for his 12th strikeout of the afternoon.
A fired-up Rodón pumped his fist as he bounded off the mound after completing his impressive performance, walking off the field to a rousing ovation from the fans in attendance.
“I’m a guy that’s always pitched with emotion,” Rodón said. “I don’t like showing up the other team. Sometimes I get a little extra fired up and I want to back off sometimes. But the goal is to go out there and win. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter what the other team thinks.”
The Giants took Rodón off the hook for the loss in the bottom of the fifth, when Thairo Estrada delivered a two-out single and scored on Duggar’s RBI double to left field to tie the game, 1-1, but the offense ultimately couldn’t capitalize and reward the club’s biggest free-agent addition with a win.
Saturday’s result begged the question of whether the Giants should have prioritized adding another big bat to their lineup in addition to fortifying their rotation with Rodón, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Alex Cobb, but Kapler said he’s confident the offense will find its footing and regain its productive form from last year.
“We’re clearly not swinging the bats great in the first two games of this series,” Kapler said. “We are not going to throw our hands up and get frustrated. We’re two games in, and we’ve got a lot of talented hitters in that room with great track records of success. Most of those guys were on our team last year that scored a boatload of runs. I have zero concerns about our ability to do it again.”