CLEVELAND -- As the Giants watched the Los Angeles Dodgers build what some have predicted will be the best lineup in National League history, they knew they had their own elite weapon in the race for the NL West title. All spring, players talked of having "co-aces."
You could say this was not necessarily new, pointing to Kevin Gausman and Logan Webb last season. But Gausman and Webb never quite lined up with their dominance. Gausman was an All-Star in the first half but tailed off in July and August, while Webb searched for consistency early before turning a corner and becoming one of the league's best pitchers.
When Gausman departed in free agency, the close friends were kept from having a full season running the show atop the rotation. Webb still has a co-ace, though, and right now he's part of the nastiest duo in baseball.
Two days after Webb had one of the best starts of his career, Carlos Rodón overwhelmed the Cleveland Guardians for seven innings. He allowed just two hits and struck out nine in a 4-1 win, turning the dial up to 99 mph in his final two innings.
According to Stats Perform, Rodon is now just the second pitcher in the modern era to strike out at least 20 batters and allow no more than five hits over his first two starts with a new team, joining Pedro Martinez, who did it in 2005 with the New York Mets.
"Overwhelming stuff, and somehow it just got better throughout the outing," manager Gabe Kapler said. "He's such an excellent strike-thrower and I really think through these first couple games we're kind of witnessing something special. It's really an elite arm with elite carry."
San Francisco Giants
The praise came two days after Kapler and Giants players tried to find the right words for Webb's development. The two are the only Giants pitchers to start two games so far, and their combined numbers atop the rotation are mind-boggling: 26 innings, 14 hits allowed, four earned runs, 31 strikeouts.
"It's very impressive to watch him work," Rodón said. "When I step on the mound, I just want to keep it going, just try to keep that winning streak going."
If the Giants can keep Webb and Rodón healthy, they'll have a one-two punch that can match anyone in baseball. The key, of course, is health. Kapler said before the game that he would watch Rodón's pitch count again because the staff is taking the long view, but it wasn't necessary.
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Rodón needed just 47 pitches to get through five and he took the mound in the seventh at 68 pitches. When the Guardians started to put a rally together, Rodón reached back for more. He repeatedly hit 98 mph in the seventh and froze Amed Rosario with a 99 mph fastball for the second out.
"That's more of a realistic way I pitch -- I kind of am (93 to 95) and then try to climb as I get deeper in the game and bring a harder fastball," Rodón said.
It is an overpowering style, and it's made even more effective because it comes right after teams deal with Webb's sinkers and horizontal movement. Through two starts, that has meant big things for a rotation that also got Alex Wood and Anthony DeSclafani back after good years. Alex Cobb struck out 10 in his own Giants debut earlier this week.
"I think everybody out of spring liked our entire staff," said Brandon Crawford, who hit the first of three Giants homers. "Obviously it starts with those two guys but we're pretty deep all the way through. I think we're all excited about that."