In final start before deadline, Carlos Rodón shows his value to SF Giants — or any other club

SAN FRANCISCO — If this was Carlos Rodón’s final start in orange and black, he didn’t hold anything back. If not, then, well, the Giants enter the stretch run a few games out of playoff position with a pair of aces up their sleeve.

The countdown clock to Tuesday’s trade deadline can now be measured in hours, not days, and Rodón has emerged as one of the top targets for contenders in search of pitching. Rodón, showing why once again Sunday, might be the best arm on the market — if he’s available.

As if he needed to cement his value, Rodón got a nationally televised showcase for his final start before the deadline and showed the Sunday Night Baseball audience why he is one of the most coveted arms and why it will be so hard for the Giants to let him go.

In seven shutout innings, Rodón racked up 10 strikeouts and powered the Giants to a 4-0 win over the Cubs.

The win was the Giants’ third in four games against the Cubs, securing their first series win since the All-Star break, and pulled them back up to .500 (51-51), 4.0 games back of the Phillies for the third and final National League wild card spot.

However, the Giants’ seven straight losses to open the second half may have cemented in management’s mind that this isn’t a club capable of making a deep postseason run. Even after taking three of four from the Cubs, the Giants finished July at 11-18, their worst month under manager Gabe Kapler, and reports in recent days have indicated the Giants are open to listening to offers for veterans on expiring contracts such as Rodón, Joc Pederson and Wilmer Flores.

When he returned to the dugout after his final frame, Rodón received the customary greeting for this time of year: hugs from teammates and coaches, though no deal appeared imminent.

Kapler had no special message for Rodón leading up to his start Sunday as trade rumors swirled.

“I trust he knows how this works,” Kapler said. “At the end of the day I think every player in the major leagues knows that this is a business, so you have to stay focused on the task at hand. … He pitches for the San Francisco Giants and we hope that he’s going to be pitching for the San Francisco Giants the last week of the season and sneak into the postseason, or maybe even better than that, and he’s starting a playoff game for us.”

No doubt, Rodón and Logan Webb would make the Giants a tough out for anyone in MLB’s new three-game wild card round. But in dispensing hope and professionalism, Kapler gave away a little bit of the game.

At this point, even after a strong series against the lowly Cubs (41-60), the best-case scenario for these Giants is sneaking into the playoffs. So, why not cash in on the assets they do have? Restock and reload for next season and beyond?

No player besides Webb, who isn’t going anywhere, would fetch a return as large as Rodón.

Even in the unlikely case Rodón hurt his value with two of his worst starts of the season coming immediately after the All-Star break (a combined 10 earned runs in 11 innings) and his uncontrolled emotions following his previous start, he easily quashed those concerns Sunday.

A steady dose of the angry fastballs and wipeout sliders that Giants fans have become accustomed to over the past four months left Cubs hitters hopeless. They didn’t advance a runner past first base against Rodón, and the overpowering southpaw retired 17 of the final 18 hitters he faced.

The 10 strikeouts gave Rodón his sixth game with double-digit punchouts this season, matching the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole for the third-most in the majors and giving him the most by a Giants starter since Madison Bumgarner in 2016.

For the second straight game, the Giants got all the offense they needed from the bottom of their order. After Luis González and Joey Bart provided the juice with back-to-back home runs out of the No. 8 and No. 9 holes in Saturday’s 5-4 win, it was their No. 8 and No. 9 hitters who delivered the damage again on Sunday.

Jason Vosler and Austin Wynns drove home all four of the Giants’ runs with a pair of two-out base knocks in the fourth inning — Vosler’s a bloop shot to left, Wynns’ a double off the center field wall — capitalizing on a bases-loaded opportunity and giving Rodón all the support he needed.

Now, the question on everybody’s mind: will Rodón still be around his next time through the rotation?

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Author: Evan Webeck