After allowing seven runs on 11 hits over 5 2/3 innings, marking the seventh straight start in which he has failed to go more than six frames, Axelrod (3-6) has given up 29 earned runs on 53 hits over his last 28 innings. He has yielded 11 home runs during that stretch, resulting in two losses and five no-decisions.
Yes, the All-Star break seems to be coming at the right time for Axelrod, who completed his first full half as a starter with 98 innings on the resume.
"It's kind of frustrating when I look back and it just isn't going my way," said Axelrod, who threw 111 pitches. "There's a few things I have put my finger on but at the same time, it's frustrating because I feel like I haven't changed much from where I was. I've just got to keep pressing on and it'll turn around."
"Axe wasn't as sharp as we've seen him," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "It's a tough lineup to go through if you're not going to be sharp. They pick you apart, squeeze you, make you throw it over the plate."
The hard-hitting middle of the Tigers order did in Axelrod and reliever Ramon Troncoso. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder combined to finish 6-for-9 with three runs scored and four RBIs, including Fielder's two-run homer in the first for his 16th of the season.
Detroit actually built its lead up to 5-1 after three innings on Alex Avila's two-out, bases-loaded single, but the White Sox productive hitting over the final two innings of Tuesday's victory carried into Wednesday. They scored two in the fourth on consecutive singles from Jeff Keppinger, Conor Gillaspie and Dayan Viciedo, with Gordon Beckham settling for a sacrifice fly when Torii Hunter made a spectacular diving catch of his line drive to right-center.
Gillaspie homered off Tigers starter Rick Porcello (6-6) in the second, and Beckham homered off reliever Bruce Rondon in the seventh. But a three-run rally in the sixth for the Tigers kept them comfortably in front.
Hunter's infield single extended the frame with two outs. Cabrera, Fielder and Victor Martinez followed with three straight run-scoring singles.
"They're professional hitters," Ventura said. "They know how to go the other way. Even when they blew it open, everything is going the other way, staying inside of it, hitting it hard. If you're not sharp going through this lineup, it's not good news."
Porcello gave up three runs on seven hits over six innings, as the White Sox (35-53) lost for the eighth time in the last nine games at Comerica. They also dipped to 5-20 in their last 25 road games this season.
With Jake Peavy scheduled to make a Minor League rehab start for Double-A Birmingham on Sunday in Huntsville, Ala., Axelrod's rotation spot could be in jeopardy when Peavy returns from a fractured rib on his left side. It's not something Axelrod will worry about until the time comes, especially with Peavy and John Danks talked about as trade targets.
Instead, Axelrod can ponder the rough road over the last month, which included a velocity drop on Wednesday, although part of that might have to do with a slow radar gun at Comerica Park.
"I didn't feel like [my velocity was down], but I noticed it out there," Axelrod said. "I feel fine. I don't know if the gun was right on or if it was low or what, but I felt fine.
"You can't throw 84 or 85 to big league hitters and expect to throw it by them. I don't know if that was really what I was throwing or what. I'm kind of scratching my head with that one, too."
Count Tigers manager Jim Leyland as one individual in Axelrod's corner, if for his makeup as much as his stuff.
"To be honest with you, I was impressed," said Leyland. "The guy might not be lights-out stuff but at the same time, this guy knows what he's doing. I'm sure Robin was thrilled that he got that deep into the game after the way it started, because it looked like we might get to it, but he hung in there tough."
As for the White Sox as a team, they moved closer to general manager Rick Hahn making moves to reshape this group than they did to the Tigers (50-40) atop the American League Central. Hahn spoke to members of the Chicago media pregame, but he did not address trade rumors or the team's direction.
But Hahn did not hide from this team's miserable first half, explaining that the White Sox deserve to be 14 games out of first and in last place based on their on-field showing.
"We've earned that record. You've seen the way we've played," Hahn said. "We sit where we sit in the standings because of our performance. Looking at these guys right now, to say we should be contending, there is strong evidence of their performances against that right now.
"Once we take a look at this club in the offseason, then we are in a better position to make an assessment about where the competitiveness sits and how quickly we can get to where we want to be. For whatever reason, it hasn't been in sync this year."