Every day is a good day to prove yourself in the major leagues, but Monday night was a particularly fine time for Dylan Axelrod to show himself capable of side-stepping through a top-flight American League lineup, right before a starting rotation gig goes on the chopping block.
The independent league graduate-level pitching came from the visiting side, as Jon Lester couldn’t close out any of the first two innings of the night, and threw the Red Sox into a hole they could not finish climbing out of before losing 6-2.
To start things out for Lester, a two-out single allowed to Alex Rios, followed by a walk to Paul Konerko, one-upped with starting 2-0 to Adam Dunn before grooving a fastball to him and falling down a deserved 3-0.
More unforgivable was Lester getting the first two outs of the second inning, but letting a double from Tyler Greene prolong his misery. Alejandro De Aza knocked Greene in by rolling a ball up the third base line that Will Middlebrooks whiffed on for the second-straight double, and Alexei Ramirez sliced another shot into the right field corner for the third-straight double of the inning.
With Axelrod at the helm, that outburst more or less salted away the game. Dylan’s only cluster of poor play came in the third, when he issued his only walk of the night to Stephen Drew and had a low fastball golfed out for a two-run bomb by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The offer was Axelrod’s usual shade of vulnerable, but too low for it to even count as a mistake.
Robin Ventura pulling Axelrod after six innings and only 83 pitches seemed like a product of a generalized cautious approach with the journeyman hurler rather than a reaction to trouble. Why test Axelrod another time through the order when trusted relievers can be used the rest of the way? After all, Axelrod had struck out two guys all night and his success didn’t make much sense.
Well, the thing about that is…Matt Thornton didn’t step in with his good control, walked two batters and allowed them home with a two-run double off the bat of Will Middlebrooks that missed leaving the yard by a couple feet. Even with Dayan Viciedo providing a run of insurance with a two-out RBI single in the fifth, Jesse Crain and Addison Reed both put the tying run on base in the eight and ninth innings.
Luckily for Crain, David Ortiz popped up a high fastball that he clearly though he should have hammered–though at 96 mph at the letters, that may have been hubris talking–and luckily for Addison Reed, Will Middlebrooks’ booming fly ball to dead center–first of all, he was lucky it went to dead center–died a foot or two short of the wall.
It might be the mark of a good team–talking about the Red Sox here–that a game where the White Sox seem to get every decisive hit and rip out the guts of their opponent within the first hour, was still a nervy affair by the end.
Team Record: 20-23
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