Usually all reporting on Dylan Axelrod is firmly placed in terms of a huge underdog overcoming unreasonable odds. So, his surprisingly proud defense of his stuff–right in the midst of the worst strikeout drought of his short MLB career–was an odd tone entering into his Friday night start in Oakland.
But it was certainly appropriate. Facing a team that had won 11 out of its last 13, Axelrod spun a gem that could have come from Chris Sale’s arm and not raised any suspicion.
After spending the season without an out-pitch, Axelrod suddenly had plenty–at least three. The snap on his slider returned. Suddenly a big, slow curveball was something he could get hitters diving out ahead on and he even had a changeup, for the seven left-handed hitters the A’s threw at him. Through seven innings, Axelrod was running alongside Bartolo Colon in 0-0 tie, with only two singles and seven strikeouts on his line.
It was too good.
As Axelrod’s dominance emerged, away went Robin Ventura’s typically quick hook for him.
His fatigue set in quickly in the eighth; John Jaso led off the inning with a piercing double to left-center. Left in to continue one of the greatest starts of his life, he allowed another double to right field to Josh Reddick, breaking the scoreless tie and dooming a hopeless White Sox offense to a loss that ballooned out to 3-0 after Thornton and Crain let their inherited runners to score.
For most White Sox games, covering the pitching is kind of an immaterial practice, or something that puts an unfair level of scrutiny on a player that will have the results taken out of their hands.
The Sox offense dooms them to either hope for pure virtuosity from their starter, or lose. Tracking the rise and fall of Axelrod on Friday night is the thing to do because it was, simply, the only thing that happened during a game where the Sox managed five hits–all singles–against 40 year-old Bartolo Colon. And it’s also the thing to do because the White Sox got virtuosity, from an entirely implausible source, and lost anyway. It stings a bit more, although in a familiar way.
All five of the White Sox singles, came in separate innings. Two of them were erased by double plays.
Team Record: 24-28
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