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 one run and three hits in 7 1-3 innings to guide Chicago to an 8-1 victory Wednesday night.
"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 seven runs off the left-hander -- including four in the first inning. That was more than enough backing for Axelrod, who overcame four 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 Chicago in position to salvage a split of the series with a win on Thursday.
"We told (Axelrod) after last night's game that he better win, because we kind of needed it," said Beckham, who contributed three hits and three RBIs.
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 Chicago's 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 (Thursday) and into (a weekend series with) Detroit as well."
Alexei Ramirez went 3 for 4 with two RBIs and scored twice to help the White Sox notch their most lopsided win since an 11-4 rout of Minnesota on July 24.
Omar Quintanilla drove in the lone run for the Orioles, whose four-game winning streak ended. Baltimore remained 3 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East.
Obtained on Sunday in a trade that sent reliever Matt Lindstrom to Arizona, Saunders (0-1) gave up 10 hits and six earned runs in 5 1-3 innings. He was undone by an awful first inning in which he yielded four hits and a walk.
"It just didn't go my way there in the first, and that was pretty much the game as it ends up," said Saunders, who grew up an Orioles fan in northern Virginia. Baltimore is his third stop in a major league career that began in 2005 with the Angels.
The Orioles' success of late and the prospect of seeing Saunders' debut barely caused a ripple at the turnstiles: The game drew a crowd of 13,098.
Saunders launched the Baltimore portion of his career in wretched fashion. Dewayne Wise singled on Saunders' second pitch and Kevin Youkilis hit a fly ball to the warning track in centre before Adam Dunn walked. After Konerko got an infield hit, Alex Rios hit a two-run double and Ramirez singled in two runs.
"I was making good pitches," Saunders insisted. "I kind of looked back at (catcher Matt Wieters) and said, 'What's going on here?"'
Chicago added an unearned run in the fourth when Beckham hit an RBI double after Wieters dropped a foul pop behind the plate.
Baltimore closed to 5-1 in the bottom half when Wieters doubled, took third on a fly ball and scored on a sacrifice fly by Quintanilla, his career-high 16th RBI of the season.
Saunders was pulled after the White Sox opened the sixth with two singles and a sacrifice. Beckham greeted Kevin Gregg with a two-run single.
An RBI single by Dayan Viciedo made it 8-1 in the seventh.
NOTES: Orioles manager Buck Showalter shot down the notion of prized pitching prospect Dylan Bundy joining the club when rosters expand on Sept. 1. Showalter said he wants the 19-year-old to focus on pitching for Double-A Bowie in the playoffs before participating in the instructional league. ... Chicago's A.J. Pierzynski wasn't in the starting lineup, but manager Robin Ventura said the catcher would start in the series finale. Pierzynski is hitless in his last 14 at-bats and 5 for 31 over his last 10 games. ... White Sox RHP Jake Peavy is still expected to start in Detroit on Friday despite being hindered by an eye infection. ... Baltimore has been outscored 80-48 in the first inning this season. ... Inserted as a defensive replacement in the seventh, Chicago 3B Ray Olmedo promptly made an outstanding stop on Mark Reynolds' grounder down the line, then threw him out.