December 7, 2022

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Rodón tops Lincecum for a Giants K record

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants haven’t seen a starting pitcher dominate hitters as thoroughly as left-hander Carlos Rodón since the heyday of franchise icon Tim Lincecum.

In fact, Rodón has already surpassed Lincecum in at least one category.

By striking out nine in the Giants’ 8-2 win over the A’s on Tuesday night at Oracle Park, Rodón regained his spot atop MLB’s leaderboard with 38 punchouts this year and broke Lincecum’s franchise record for most strikeouts in a pitcher’s first four appearances since at least 1901.

Rodón held the A’s to three hits and two walks while giving up one run over six innings, improving to 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA , the fourth-lowest mark in the Majors. The lone blemish for the 29-year-old southpaw came in the third, when he issued a walk to No. 9 hitter Nick Allen, who came around to score on Sheldon Neuse’s two-out single to cut the Giants’ lead to 2-1.

“I think Carlos set the tone,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He came out throwing strikes, even when the A’s — which they did all the way through the game — put really good high-quality at-bats on him, took good swings, fouled off some pitches and ran his pitch count up. He continued to attack the strike zone, even without his secondary weapons at his best strike-throwing capacity. … He still continued to pump strikes and get back in counts as needed and make big pitches.”

Rodón relied almost exclusively on his fastball to overpower the Mets at Citi Field last week, but he worked in more of his slider on Tuesday night, with six of his nine strikeouts coming on the breaking ball. Sixty-six of his season-high 104 pitches (63%) were still fastballs, which topped out at 98.5 mph and drew 42 swings from the A’s. Even so, Oakland’s hitters couldn’t do much damage on Rodón’s heater, which had a .119 (5-for-42) opponents’ batting average entering Tuesday.

“I think there’s room to improve with more secondary,” Rodón said. “More strikes with the slider, more strikes with the curveball. Luckily, we’ve been riding on that fastball and that fastball’s gotten me through these first four starts.”

What makes Rodón’s fastball so effective?

“He’s a short-arm right over the top with 96-98 compared to 94,” Neuse explained. “He throws that at the top of the zone and he’s got a good angle when he comes in. But when he throws it down at the bottom and throws a slider off it, it just makes it a little bit harder to see. He’s a good pitcher.”

Like Lincecum, Rodón wore No. 55 during his days with the White Sox, but he switched to No. 16 after signing a two-year, $44 million deal with the Giants out of respect for the Freak. Despite breaking Lincecum’s record, Rodón downplayed the accomplishment, noting that the season is still young.

“That’s only four games, so there’s a lot more left,” Rodón said. “That’s cool, but Tim did a lot of amazing things here, so that doesn’t really mean much, I feel like.”

The Giants’ bats showed no signs of slowing down, even after coming off a grueling four-city, 11-game road trip. Wilmer Flores and Austin Slater delivered the big blows on Tuesday night, each smashing three-run home runs to help extend San Francisco’s winning streak to five games.

Flores, who has become an indispensable piece of the lineup following the injury to Evan Longoria, started at designated hitter against A’s right-hander Daulton Jefferies and came close to homering in the second inning, when he drove a curveball off the top of the left-field wall for an RBI double. Still, Flores managed to leave the yard in his second at-bat in the third, slugging a sinker at the top of the zone out to left for a three-run shot that gave the Giants a commanding 5-1 lead.

Flores, 30, is now batting .283 with an .800 OPS and two home runs over 16 games this year.

“I just see what Wilmer is doing as what he did for us for the last two calendar years,” Kapler said. “Very consistent at the plate, good decision-maker, good barrel accuracy. Excellent in squaring up the baseball no matter where it is in the zone and lays off pitches that he can’t drive. I think he didn’t get off to a perfect start, but he was always having pretty consistent quality at-bats. Now those are resulting in some damage.”

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