The White Sox entered the night having not gotten a hit out of the infield in a while...since Monday, to be precise. It was a drought that needed fixing, so Dewayne Wise went about fixing it with a solid single to left field on the second pitch of the game.
With that out of the way, more vague but still important goals were due for accomplishing. Orioles starter Joe Saunders couldn't spot anything in the 1st inning, and J.J. Hardy couldn't flag down a grounder to the hole, and for the first time this week, the Sox were in the mood to punish their opponents brutally for their mistakes. A walk to Dunn and an infield single to Konerko loaded the bases, and Rios plated two runs by doubling to right-center with the opposite-field swing he flashed earlier in the year.
That would have been plenty, but Alexei Ramirez redeemed the continually wayward Dayan Viciedo with a served single to right field to plate another pair. With that, the opportunity had been sufficiently maximized, and there were far more runs than Dylan Axelrod would need.
The Axe-man didn't always make it seem easy. He had to wait till the 5th for his first 1-2-3 inning, he walked four batters over 7.1 IP, he relied on a line-drive double play to escape the 1st, and was dealing with two runners on and Adam Jones up with two outs in the 3rd....when he blew a low and in fastball by him.
A sacrifice fly scored a tally against Axelrod the next inning, but disaster didn't threaten again on the night, and 11 straight batters retired took Dylan's outing into the 8th. Further breathing room was provided by banner nights from Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez, who had six hits and five RBI between them, and produced enough breathing room to push the game into mop-up time.
White Sox 8, Orioles 1
Dyan Axelrod - 7.1 IP, 3 H, ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 112 pitches - Somewhat all over the place, but rarely hittable. Fantastic effort.
Alexei Ramirez - 3 for 4, 2 RBI, 2 R - Opposite field swings continue Ramirez's insane run of RBI production in spite of a career-worst offensive year.
Gordon Beckham - 3 for 4, 2B, 3 RBI - Nights where he flashes pull power and also sprays balls to right are the nights that get you thinkin'.
Dayan Viciedo - 2 for 4, RBI, R - Hey, apparently he had a productive night after all! Silly me!
Alex Rios - 1 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI, R, BB, K - Inside-out swing was the big moment of the game and something that wouldn't happen last season.
Alexei Ramirez and Alex Rios spraying outside fastballs to right field combined to exploit a run-scoring opportunity to its fullest extent in the 1st, and gave the Sox a four-run cushion before their minor league call-up could take the mound.
That same call-up escaping a 3rd inning problem by conjuring three swinging strikes from Adam Jones below the zone loomed large as well. It was a fun moment.
Things Would Be Different If...
...Axelrod didn't keep the ball down. Now, he didn't generate ground balls--far from it. Axelrod survived despite relying on an incredible 14 flyball outs in Camden Yards of all places, but he got his swings and misses when he effectively got batters to chase sliders and sinkers below the zone.
There's no shortage of gratitude for Axelrod stopping a two-game skid with another surprise superlative outing. Well, there's some shortage...it's too short to keep him from getting demoted immediately to Birmingham for the time being. But it was another sterling demonstration of the help he's capable of offering with proper notice. The offense becoming productive via reasoned approaches and opposite field swings also serves to reverse some ugly play from the past two days.
Also, the Tigers lost.
Team Record: 72-57, 3 games up