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SEA@CWS: Axelrod tosses 5 2/3 strong innings

White Sox manager Robin Ventura decided to switch his club's rotation order this week, giving Dylan Axelrod the nod for Thursday's finale in place of Jose Quintana.

As the White Sox try to snap the Nationals' five-game home winning streak at Nationals Park, the skipper said the move was all about matchups. Ventura will look to get another strong outing from his righty as the club tries to salvage the finale of its first Interleague series of this season.

Ventura is fond of Interleague Play, which will take place throughout the entire season this year after divisional realignment.

"I just think it's good for the team-wise, the players to get more action, so guys are ready," Ventura said. "For a manager, there's just different things going on. In the American League, when you pull a pitcher, it's because you want to pull a pitcher. In this one, there are times a guy comes out for a pinch-hitter. The double-switch -- a player comes out that normally wouldn't come out of an American League game."

It also means Axelrod will have to hit against his Nationals counterpart, Dan Haren.

In Axelrod's first start this season, he matched up against Felix Hernandez and did not allow a run in 5 2/3 innings. It was Axelrod's first career game against the Mariners, and the White Sox hope he'll repeat his success in his first matchup against the Nationals.

Haren will take the mound after struggling Friday in his Nationals debut against the Reds. Haren lasted just four innings in a 15-0 loss, allowing six runs on nine hits and four home runs.

He had success against Chicago while with the Angels last year, though, going 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings. The 11-year veteran owns a 3.53 career ERA with 30 Ks in 35 2/3 innings against the White Sox.

White Sox: Rios locked in early
• Alex Rios' four-game homer streak ended in Wednesday's 5-2 loss, but his hitting streak is still alive. Rios enters Thursday's game with a 14-game hitting streak dating back to last season and is powering the White Sox's offense early this year with a team-high 14 hits and eight RBIs.

• Gordon Beckham will not start in Thursday's finale in Washington as he continues to recover from nerve irritation suffered during an at-bat in the series opener. He does not plan to swing a bat until Friday, although he could be available to pinch-run or bunt.

"It's a little frustrating, but it's a minor setback as of right now," Beckham said. "I expect to be back out there in a couple of days and hopefully feel fine, 100 percent, keep going with where I started and feel good about that and help this team."

Nationals: Bullpen struggles don't worry Nats
The Nationals' bullpen has gotten some bad press recently, but pitching coach Steve McCatty isn't too concerned. His relievers allowed 20 runs in 21 2/3 innings entering Wednesday's game, but McCatty believes his group will turn the corner.

"Do I have any concerns? No. Could they do better? Sure, but it's still early," McCatty said. "Everybody is looking at the first seven games that we are playing. Could we be sharper? Sure. Is there a reason to doubt it? No. There is going to be stretches during the season where everybody is going to have their moments where everything is clicking together. But fortunately, the offense has been good enough that we are still able to get the wins."

Worth noting
• Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper continued his torrid start to the season on Wednesday, collecting a pair of hits -- including his fourth homer -- to raise his average to .394. Despite the power, Harper has yet to draw a walk this season.

• Following up back-to-back rocky outings, Nationals closer Rafael Soriano pitched a clean ninth inning Wednesday to record his fourth save in five opportunities this season.

• Wednesday marked the second game this season in which the White Sox did not draw a walk.

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