Given the circumstances, Dylan Axelrod is probably making the biggest start of his career tonight for the Chicago White Sox.
With starter John Danks most likely joining the White Sox rotation at the end of the week, Axelrod has one last outing to prove to manager Robin Ventura that he deserves to remain in the Sox starting rotation.
Not only is Axelrod pitching for his job tonight, he’s also trying to slow down the surging Boston Red Sox. Winners of five straight, the Red Sox will send their ace Jon Lester to the hill tonight in Chicago. Lester has struggled throughout his career when facing the White Sox, going 4-4 with a 5.20 ERA, but the lefty is 6-0 this season and is looking like an early AL Cy Young Award candidate.
The opportunity is there for the taking for Axelrod tonight. Although his numbers this year (1-3, 4.27 ERA, 1.32 WHIP) aren’t overly impressive, the 27-year-old hurler has been a solid arm at the back end of Chicago’s rotation.
In order to shut down the Red Sox offense, which currently has the second-highest OBP in the MLB, Axelrod will have to keep Boston’s hitters off balance. Due to his lack of overpowering stuff, the right-hander’s success has a lot to do with the location of his pitches. If he’s able to throw strikes and keep batters guessing this evening, Axelrod should hang tough against Boston’s explosive offense.
The task may seem like a tall one for the 6-foot, 185-pound Axelrod to tackle, but I believe he has the ability to beat the Red Sox and remain a starter for the Pale Hose. No matter his fate once Danks returns, Axelrod has proved that he has the talent to pitch at the Major League level.