From the pregame chatter, it seemed like this would be the game where everybody would have officially seen enough of Dylan Axelrod.
Nope. Turns out Leyson Septimo commanded all the negative attention tonight after his command abandoned him on the mound.
Maybe Robin Ventura asked too much of him. It seemed like Septimo got the job done when he got Jacoby Ellsbury to pop out to end the seventh. That stranded a runner, kept the game tied at 1 and locked in Axelrod's terrific outing. So really, Septimo accomplished a lot with one batter. But Bobby Valentine had four straight lefties in his lineup, and so Septimo (with Ventura's blessing) forged ahead.
It didn't end well. He walked Carl Crawford on five pitches, and did the same to David Ortiz. Then came Adrian Gonzalez, who got on top of a fastball up and on the outer half and smacked it into the Monster seats to give the Red Sox a 4-1 lead. That was it for Septimo, but not for the Red Sox, who also touched up Nate Jones for a run to put the game out of reach.
Septimo was an odd choice to lean on in the eighth, since a 1-1 tie would normally demand Matt Thornton's services. He hadn't thrown since Friday (and the All-Star break preceded that), so it wasn't like he was overtaxed. Perhaps Ventura was trying to save him for a save situation, given all the lefties and the fact that Addison Reed pitched in two of three games. If Septimo is Plan B, though, the Sox are going to need a different Plan B.
The meltdown overshadowed a fine effort by Axelrod, who started on short notice for Gavin Floyd after picking up the win in relief in Kansas City on Friday. He shook off a shaky 33-pitch first inning to throw 6⅔ beautiful innings against that lefty-stacked Red Sox lineup. He got into early trouble when Laz Diaz didn't give him strike three to David Ortiz (when it looked like more of a strike than strike two). Ortiz extended the at-bat and singled on the seventh pitch, and Adrian Gonzalez came up with a single of his own for an RBI.
He ended the threat by striking out Cody Ross and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and that's the Axelrod that ventured on into the second inning and beyond. He retired 15 of 17 batters at one point, and tied a career high with eight strikeouts. Septimo walked two more batters than he did, too.
But it was all for naught, and so too was Kevin Youkilis' Fenway return to remember. After tipping his helmet to the Red Sox fans who gave him a standing ovation before his first at-bat, he stuck it to his former team. He smacked a single up the middle, and then scored from first when the next batter, Adam Dunn, grounded out to second.
Youkilis took advantage of the shift for Dunn -- and the rookie third baseman who replaced him. He ran hard to second to avoid the double play and when he saw that Will Middlebrooks was drifting toward the bag to cover second, Youkilis saw third base unoccupied and figured he could beat Middlebrooks there.
He had the race won, but Gonzalez threw this awkard maybe-I-shouldn't toss to Middlebrooks. Problem was, he threw behind his receiver. The ball got past Middlebrooks and into left field foul territory, and Youkilis scored standing to give the Sox a 1-0 lead.
Youkilis added two doubles to his day, and the Green Monster took a homer away from him on one of them. The problem was, outside of A.J. Pierzynski, the rest of the White Sox offense couldn't figure out Aaron Cook. Youkliis and Pierzynski went 5-for-8; everybody else went 0-for-24.
- Cook, who entered the game with just two strikeouts over 22⅔ innings, didn't record one against the White Sox. The Sox struck out just once, tying a season low (June 20 against the Cubs).
- The Sox grounded out 15 times against Cook over seven innings.