Sox battle in loss in first-half finale

CHICAGO -- With some needing to catch a plane to the All-Star Game and everyone else ready to enjoy a four-day break, the Chicago White Sox had plenty of reasons to fold up when the Toronto Blue Jays jumped on them early in Sunday’s game.

The Blue Jays battered White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod, who was pitching on three days rest, for two home runs and four runs in the first inning and knocked him around for three more runs before he left the game after three innings. The Blue Jays added another run in the fourth and built an 8-3 lead.

For most teams, that would have been it. But as this year’s White Sox have shown throughout the season’s first half, they don’t crumble so easily.

Ultimately, the Blue Jays got the best of the White Sox, winning 11-9, but they had to fight them for every out on Sunday to avoid being swept at U.S. Cellular Field.

It wasn’t exactly the note the White Sox wanted to finish on heading into the All-Star break, but they remained proud of their performance.

“Even though we lost that game, we battled throughout the game,” said White Sox right fielder Alex Rios, who had two doubles, a home run and four RBIs in the loss. “That’s what matters.”

The few players who weren’t quick to dart off to the airport after Sunday’s game fielded just a few questions about the loss and dealt mostly with the team’s first-place first-half performance, entering the second half as the hunted and the addition of starting pitcher Jake Peavy to the All-Star Game as a replacement.

“It was pretty good,” Rios said of the first half. “I don’t think many people expected us to be where we’re right now. We put it together. We’ve done a lot of good things this first half.

“We’re not going to think about anything else [in the second half.] We’re just going to play the game. We don’t have to worry about anything else. If we play the game we’ve been playing, I think we’ll be in a good position.”

The White Sox are currently in a favorable position partly because of Peavy. After dealing with 2 ½ seasons of ups and downs with the White Sox, he’s remained healthy and effective on the mound this season. Peavy is 7-5 with a 2.85 ERA and has 26 walks and 108 strikeouts in 120 innings.

Peavy had to leave the ballpark early Sunday to catch a flight, but his teammates were more than happy to talk about him being added to the All-Star team.

“It’s awesome,” said White Sox starter Chris Sale, who is also an All-Star pitcher. “He’s getting what he deserves. Having him there is just going to be that much more fun, that much more enjoyable.

“[He brings to us; a lot more than pitching. He’s a vocal leader, a leader by example, the fire he brings and the intensity. You can learn from him by just watching he does. The way he goes about his business, the way he competes is awesome to watch.”