WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals have a lineup that doesn’t mind taking pitches or fouling them off. They want to make a pitcher work early in the game in order to wear him out later.
That’s just what happened to Chicago White Sox right-hander Dylan Axelrod Thursday night. Washington’s patience forced Axelrod to throw 103 pitches in just 3⅔ innings as the Nationals completed a three-game sweep of the Sox with a 7-4 victory at Nationals Park.
Axelrod’s problems began in the first inning. The Nationals scored just one run on two hits, but the right-hander needed to throw 40 pitches just to get out of that inning after Washington fouled off pitch after pitch.
“That’s not the way you want to start: 40 pitches in the first inning,” Axelrod said. “I guess I could have done a better job of challenging early. They made me work.”
Yes, they did. And that set the stage for other problems afterward. Axelrod (0-1) retired the Nats in order in the second, but Washington wore him down the second and third times through the order.
The Nationals kept staying patient and working deep into counts. That’s why they manufactured runs off of Axelrod. There were walks, stolen bases, a sacrifice fly, a double from Washington starter Dan Haren -- who scored the go-ahead run on an Axelrod wild pitch in the fourth -- and the back-breaker, a two-run double from Ryan Zimmerman in that inning, which gave the Nats a 6-3 lead and ended Axelrod’s night.
“They make it extremely hard,” Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. “Every time you go around, it gets a little harder, so [he] wasn’t able to get through that one. This is a tough team.”
Axelrod made some good pitches in different spots but ended up allowing six runs on seven hits in those 3⅔ long innings, which took nearly two hours to play. He also walked four and struck out two as the Nationals kept pushing.
“I felt all right [after the first inning], but obviously, you know, the more pitches you throw, your stuff just isn’t the same, just doesn’t have that zip on it," Axelrod said. "They're an aggressive team they got deep into counts and made me work real hard."