The escape artist formally known, as Dylan Axelrod, was on point in the first inning of Monday’s 8-6 Charlotte Knights victory over the Toledo Mud Hens.
To the initial dismay of the crowd of 8,616 at BB&T BallPark, Axelrod began the game the game by allowing Toledo runners to second and third without recording an out.
Micah Johnson then saved a mistake when he went vertical to snag a line drive off the bat of Tyler Collins, who had turned on a hanging breaking ball.
With the game’s first out behind him, Axelrod went to work.
He began by coming inside on long-time minor leaguer Mike Hessman to induce a lazy fly to short and for his coupe de grace, Axe went to a 1-2 count on James McCann before generating a bouncing ball to second to complete the scoreless frame.
“Being able to get out of the first inning was big,” Axelrod said. “It could have gone the other way pretty easily if I had caved in and given up those runs.
“I really tried to bear down and throw my best stuff,” he continued. “I probably focused just a little bit more. It’s almost one of those things where you wish you did it before you got into trouble.”
From then on there was no touching Axelrod, who held Toledo in a state of arrested development over the game’s next five innings.
The former mainstay in the 2013 White Sox rotation finished the afternoon having allowed just three hits. He struck out five and walked two on his way to win No. 4 of the season.
“A lot of games are won and lost in the first inning,” Knights manager Joel Skinner said. “That was big. He didn’t get in a hurry and it worked out for him. He threw well today.”
On a night when centerfield doubled as a graveyard for well-hit fly balls, Matt Davidson, Andy Wilkins and Jordan Danks all managed to still go yard.
Davidson’s home run, which came in the second, was his 12th of the season and temporarily vaulted him into the team lead before Wilkins pulled even with a shot to leadoff the fourth.
Charlotte batters finished with 17 hits, three each by Johnson (3-for-5), Carlos Sanchez (3-for-4, 2R) and Wilkins (3-for-5, 2R, RBI).
Danks’ home run came in the eighth and brought home two runs that eventually loomed large when Taylor Thompson ran into trouble in the top of the ninth.
Thompson allowed two runs on two walks and three hits before securing the game’s final out on a strikeout of Hessman with the bases juiced.
The win gave the Knights their first series win (3-1) since they took three of four games from Durham at BB&T BallPark April 22-25.
“I can’t really remember that last time we took three out of four from anyone,” said Jordan Danks, who was with the White Sox the last time it happened. “We’re rolling right now and hopefully that continues on to this next series.”