The less-than-intimidating right-hander with the ho-hum fastball was mowing down hitters again, and still has nothing to show for his four starts this season.
Axelrod is the poster boy for the argument that a pitcher's won-loss total means nothing. In his three solid starts, the last two of which were categorized as quality, Axelrod has nothing to show for it in the win column. But that one hiccup at Washington in the first road series of the season branded him with a loss that stands as his only decision.
Axelrod was at his best yet again Monday against the Cleveland Indians by staying in the strike zone while changing speeds. He went six innings while giving up just one run on three hits but left with the White Sox holding a tenuous one-run lead.
"I don't know if it amazes me, but he's a smart pitcher," manager Robin Ventura said. "He gets into counts where hitters get aggressive and he's able to go back and forth with them and change speeds. He uses both sides of the plate. He just knows how to pitch. He doesn't need 95-97 (mph) to be able to do it. He gave us an opportunity."
That opportunity was squandered when reliever Matt Thornton gave up a two-run single in the eighth inning to the Indians' Asdrubal Cabrera. Thornton had put runners on first and second and then got them into scoring position himself when his pickoff attempt at second base bounced into center field.
Most cruel of all is that the Indians managed to snuff out a White Sox uprising in the seventh inning on a similar situation. But pinch runner Blake Tekotte was picked off second base and Alejandro De Aza grounded into a double play to end that threat.
The White Sox now have 13 errors in 19 games and many of them have been costly. The miscues have been magnified since the offense hasn't been able to mount much of an attack.
Axelrod said the pitchers aren't thinking about having to pitch a shutout in order to pick up the anemic offense.
"No, I don't look at it like that," he said. "I just do my best to have a quality effort. We're going to turn it around. We've got some guys that can swing it. It's baseball. It happens. The offense might struggle at times, and the pitching might struggle. We're just waiting for it to come together."
In the meantime, Axelrod has proven to be a quality stand-in for injured pitcher John Danks, who will have yet another outing at extended spring training this week. In remains unknown when he might go on a minor-league rehab assignment which would follow when that part of his rehab is completed.
In dropping his season ERA to 3.80, Axelrod retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced and matched a season high with four strikeouts.
"I felt good about it," he said. "It was a good effort. I can't ask myself to do anything else but keep us in it and be ahead coming out of the game. It's just unfortunate. We're in a little bit of a rut. We just need to find a way to get it done."