Axelrod pitches well for Sox, but Septimo yields 3-run homer in 8th
By DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Sun-Times Media July 16, 2012 11:20PM
Sox reliever Leyson Septimo composes himself after yielding a tiebreaking home run in the eighth inning. | AP
Updated: August 18, 2012 6:34AM
BOSTON — Leaning on a pitching staff chock-full of rookies is a tough way to win a division.
The White Sox have found a way to get to the top of the American League Central with eight rookie pitchers on their staff, but staying there won’t be easy during the wars of attrition in the second half of the season.
‘‘Right now, you don’t have a choice,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. ‘‘That’s what we are. Whether it’s reasonable that you can do it, we don’t have a choice. We’ve got guys who need to grow up quick and be able to get it done. That’s just where we’re at until guys get healthy.’’
All three pitchers the Sox used in their 5-1 loss Monday to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park were rookies. Right-hander Dylan Axelrod pitched well — the score was tied 1-1 when he exited in the seventh inning — but left-hander Leyson Septimo didn’t, and the Sox’ lead in the AL Central shrank to 21/2 games over the Detroit Tigers.
‘‘(Axelrod) pitched great,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘He solidified a position for us as far as a guy we can count on. That’s a good lineup, and he battled his way through it. But we couldn’t close it out. Septy couldn’t get out of (the eighth). He had problems early getting strikes over.’’
Four of Septimo’s five appearances before this one were scoreless. With four lefties due up, Septimo got the third out of the seventh. Veteran left-hander Matt Thornton was warmed up and ready, but he was told to sit down while Septimo started the eighth.
That’s when things caved in. Septimo opened the eighth by walking Carl Crawford and David Ortiz (who injured his right Achilles) before Adrian Gonzalez hit an opposite-field home run over the Green Monster in left-center. That gave the Red Sox a 4-1 lead.
Right-hander Nate Jones came on and allowed a single to Cody Ross, who took second on a wild pitch and third on an infield out before scoring on a single by Mike Aviles.
‘‘For us, whoever goes in there, veteran or not, you have to step in and do the job,’’ said Ventura, who is waiting for starter John Danks and relievers Jesse Crain and Brian Bruney to get healthy. ‘‘I don’t put training wheels on them because they’re a rookie. There’s a lot of guys who are in positions they wouldn’t be in if everybody was healthy. But for us, that’s where we’re at.’’
Axelrod pitched like a veteran Monday. After yielding consecutive singles to Crawford, Ortiz and Gonzalez in the first, Axelrod got two strikeouts to end the 31-pitch inning and went on a stretch in which he retired 17 of the next 20 Red Sox. His eight strikeouts tied a career high, and he walked none.
‘‘I just go into the game almost trying too hard,’’ Axelrod said. ‘‘I just tell myself that I need to relax and let it flow.’’
Red Sox right-hander Aaron Cook was equally good, holding the Sox to five hits in seven innings. Three were by Kevin Youkilis, including two doubles, on a night when Fenway fans welcomed him warmly in his first game there as a visitor.
‘‘It’s a shame to waste a pitching performance like (Axelrod’s) against a team like that,’’ designated hitter Adam Dunn said. ‘‘Scoring only one run for him, you can’t win like that.’’