Axford Report: April 19, 2011
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • April 19, 2011 @ 4:48pm
These are trying times in Axford-ville. The “Moustachax” (pronounced “must-ASH-ax”), Milwaukee closer John Axford, has struggled in his last two outings, allowing a run against the lowly Pirates and blowing a save against the Phillies. Still, Brewers’ manager Ron Roenicke placed a vote of confidence in his reliever, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “I’m not really concerned about [Axford]. He’s got too many pitches to get hitters out.”
Against Pittsburgh, Axford entered the contest with the Brew Crew leading 4-0 in the bottom of the 9th, and the Pirates hadn’t scored a run in 23 innings. The former Canisius pitcher issued a leadoff walk to Andrew McCutcheon before fanning Matt Diaz. Steve Pearce, filling in for mega-prospect Pedro Alvarez, laced a single, advancing McCutcheon to second. After Lyle Overbay flew out, Axford walked his second batter of the inning, pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit, to load the bases. Clearly unnerved, Axford unleashed a wild pitch, plating McCutcheon. With the tying run at the plate, Josh Rodriguez, hit-less in 2011, struck out to end the game—but not before Axford nearly made Brewers fans choke on their sausages.
The closer’s control was no better in Philadelphia four nights later; Milwaukee trudged into the 9th nursing a 3-2 lead. For the second straight outing, Axford walked the lead-off hitter in Carlos Ruiz before Wilson Valdez sacrificed the catcher to second. Journeyman Pete Orr, pinch-hitting for the pitcher, ripped a single to score Ruiz, the tying run. Axford recovered his poise to strike out the Flyin’ Hawaiian Shane Victorino, but then gave Placido Polanco a free pass. Jimmy Rollins popped out to send the affair into extra innings, where Milwaukee eventually won, 6-3.
Command is the clear issue for Axford, who now sports an 8.53 ERA, a 2.21 WHIP and two blown saves in 6.1 innings—numbers that would ordinarily cost a closer his job. With his competitors still recuperating from injuries, however, Axford’s role remains precariously safe…for now. We hope he can pull it together.