Brewers may replace John Axford as closer
The struggles of Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford continued on Tuesday night as Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista erased a one-run deficit with back-to-back home runs off Axford in the ninth inning, and the Toronto Blue Jays rallied to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 10-9.
Axford started the ninth inning for the Brewers holding a 9-8 advantage, but Rasmus opened the frame by pulling a 3-1 fastball just inside the right-field foul pole to knot the game. Bautista quickly broke the tie four pitches later when he hammered a ball off the base of the second deck in right field.
The blown save marred what was otherwise a memorable day for Axford. Earlier in the day, he posted a photo of his newborn son, Jameson Aedan, on his Twitter account.
“If I was sitting in the hospital watching the game and the same thing happened to somebody else, what happened to me in the ninth, I would have felt even worse than what I do right now,” Axford said. “It’s my job — for now, anyways.”
Manager Ron Roenicke didn’t expect Axford to be available after wife Nicole delivered the couple’s second son earlier in the day. Nicole went into false labor in May but the delivery was put off until a week or so before the original due date.
“When a guy has a baby, even if things go well, I don’t expect him to be at the ballpark,” said Roenicke.
Reliever Jose Veras also was unavailable with an ongoing groin strain and Axford did report to Miller Park during the game. Axford blew his third save since June 13 and now carries a brutal 5.60 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in 27-plus innings this year. Axford now has four blown saves this season, twice as many as he had while setting a franchise record with 46 saves in 2011.
His fastball velocity is better than ever at an average of 96.3 mph and he’s striking out batters at a career-high rate (12.51 K/9), but the right-hander has coughed up far too many big hits this summer.
“I’ve thrown him a lot, and we need to right now,” Roenicke said. “We’ve been throwing everyone a lot. I know it’s a tough day for him, being at the hospital all day and then coming over here, trying to regroup mentally as much as anything.”
Roenicke may turn to setup man Francisco Rodriguez, who has allowed no runs and just three hits in his last five relief appearances and boasts a 30/11 K/BB ratio through 32 1/3 innings this season. He was a star closer for the Mets and had a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth Tuesday.
Asked whether there would be conversations about the closer’s role, Roenicke said, “Right now, he’s the guy. We haven’t really made a decision there, where we would think about changing that. It was nice to see Frankie [Rodriguez, Axford's setup man] have a good inning today.”