BALTIMORE -- The night before White Sox rookie Dylan Axelrod was scheduled to pitch against the Baltimore Orioles, teammates Gordon Beckham and Paul Konerko pulled the right-hander aside and gave him something to think about.
The way Axelrod remembers it, the message was: "The season is on the line. You've got to win this."
Axelrod delivered, allowing 1 run and 3 hits in 7 innings to guide the Sox to an 8-1 victory Wednesday night.
The White Sox moved 3 games ahead of Detroit in the AL Central after the Tigers lost 1-0 at Kansas City.
"I know they were just kidding me," Axelrod said of his teammates' speech, "but it was a good win against a good team."
The White Sox spoiled the Orioles debut of Joe Saunders, scoring 7 runs off the left-hander -- including 4 in the first inning. That was more than enough backing for Axelrod, who overcame 4 walks to earn his third career win.
Recalled from Triple-A Charlotte on Tuesday as a replacement for injured Gavin Floyd, Axelrod (2-2) retired 13 straight batters before a one-out walk in the eighth ended his night.
Although Beckham and Konerko intentionally overstated the importance of the game for the first-place White Sox, the victory did break a five-game skid on the road and put the Sox in position to salvage a split of the series with a win today.
"We told (Axelrod) after last night's game that he better win, because we kind of needed it," said Beckham, who contributed 3 hits and 3 RBI.
Afterward, Axelrod was optioned to Double-A Birmingham. It didn't matter to him one bit, because that assignment puts him in position to be recalled sooner than a return to playoff-bound Charlotte.
"Get my work and get ready to come back," he said. "I am thankful that they want me back so soon."
One night after White Sox ace Chris Sale didn't get past the fourth inning, Axelrod put the brakes on the White Sox' mini-slide.
"They talk about being a stopper. I'm not that, but I came out with that mindset," he said. "Put forth my best effort and get this team back on a winning track that hopefully carries into (today) and into (a weekend series with) Detroit as well."
Alexei Ramirez went 3-for-4 with 2 RBI and scored twice to help the White Sox notch their most lopsided win since an 11-4 rout of Minnesota on July 24.