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‘Man on a mission': Jonathan Cannon pitches career gem against Astros

Cannon pitched one out away from a complete game shutout against the Astros

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White Sox rookie Jonathan Cannon got peppered in his second and third appearances in the big leagues.

Against the Twins on April 22, the Twins took six runs off nine hits on him, forcing him out after 3.2 innings. Against the Rays five days later, they hit two home runs and took four runs off eight hits against him.

That earned him a demotion back to Triple-A Charlotte. There, he put in work to iron out his pitches and straighten himself out. He pitched a solid opening upon returning to the big leagues in early June, pitching three scoreless innings late in a game against the Red Sox.

But the real improvements showed on Tuesday against the Astros, as he pitched one out away from a complete game shutout. Cannon finished pitching 8.2 innings, allowing zero runs from seven hits and one walk.

"Coming up here and realizing what he needs to stay up here," manager Pedro Grifol said after the game. "And doesn't mean that he has outings like that every time out. It just means, 'You know what, I need to do this if I want to be a major league pitcher.'

"And a lot of credit to him. Going down there, instead of pouting because of a demotion, he said 'You know what, I'm gonna go down there and learn from this and work on it and get back up there and prove to everybody I'm a big-leaguer. And that's what he did. But a lot of credit to our development people."

Cannon took on a struggling, yet perenially strong, Astros team known for their big bats and sublime fastball-hitting abilities. But he commanded the zone, working his sinker inside on hitters and pairing it with a nasty sweeper.

He struck out just four batters but rung out Jose Altuve twice, and Jeremy Pena once and kept the Astros' bats under control. The White Sox's defense stepped up, certainly. And Korey Lee called a solid game for Cannon behind the plate.

But, really, Cannon was the one who shined. How did he adjust from his earlier outings?

"I think the biggest thing is the lefty attack. And I just feel like everything's a little bit sharper than it was last time. Just kind of looking at some of those videos from some of my earlier outings. I like my stuff a lot better where it is right now."

Cannon mentioned he felt better this go-around, knowing he got the big-league butterflies out of his system with his first couple of outings in the majors. It's his rookie season. That comes with a lot of pressure trying to start games in the major leagues.

And that pressure built in the ninth inning, as Pedro Grifol gave Cannon the green light to close the game with 95 pitches under his belt. With a potential complete game shutout on deck, Grifol said he knew it was a growing point for his development. And Cannon took it as such.

"They just told me to finish it and I wanted to finish it," Cannon said. "Stinks that I wasn't able to get that last out but thankful Brebbs [John Brebbia] came in and put out the fire. ...For Pedro to show that faith in me meant a lot to me, to be able to go out there and try and finish off the win.

"I think that was a huge confidence booster for me."

Unfortunately, after getting the first two batters to ground out, Jon Singleton check-swung a ball down the third base line that trickled fair over the bag for a single. Mauricio Dubón hit a groundball up the middle to put two men on base.

That's when Grifol yanked the rookie with 105 pitches to his name and the winning run for the Astros at the plate. It was the right call, given Cannon's young arm and the unlucky situation he encountered deep into the game. Cannon said after the game he understood the decision, too.

But after a few rough starts in the majors and a demotion, I'd say Cannon made a name for himself on Tuesday night with an absolute gem.

"I'll definitely never forget this night."

Neither will his teammates, who've noticed the changes he's made and the work he's put in.

"He's a man on a mission," Korey Lee said. "He's coming in here. He knows what he's gotta do every single day. And he knows how to prepare himself before that game. If it's preparation in the bullpen, if it's doing his homework in the lab, whatever it is, he's coming in prepared every single day. That's all I can ask for as a catcher."

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