Fourty-eight straight times -- good for the fourth-longest such streak of all-time -- Brewers closer John Axford has come out of the bullpen in a save situation and left with yet another save on the stat sheet.
And after Sunday's near-disaster finish, Axford won't soon forget the 48th one.
With the Brewers leading 3-2 heading into the ninth inning, Axford came to the hill to try and salvage a win for Milwaukee in what had been a tough series in St. Louis. But before he knew it, two Cardinals were on the base paths with no outs.
"Sometimes Ax comes in and he elevates that ball and has trouble getting it down," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "First batter, that's what we saw. But he came back and made some pitches."
Indeed, he did. After getting the anxiety out on the first two batters, Axford said, he was looking for something a little extra against Cardinals third baseman David Freese.
"Sometimes you have to just dig deep and reach for a little extra," Axford said. "That's what I tried to do against Freese there. ... You just get a little lucky sometimes, I think."
Down 2-0 in the count to Freese, Axford threw a 98-mph fastball that Freese watched blow past him. Next, it was an unhittable, 97-mph fastball on the inside corner. And then, after being down in the count and the odds not in his favor to pass Brad Lidge on the all-time consecutive saves list, Axford struck out Freese with another fastball.
Next, with the Cardinals' hottest hitter at the plate in catcher Yadier Molina, Axford wasted no time. A first-pitch curveball put him up, 0-1, in the count. Then, another 97-mph fastball. And finally, Axford got Molina to swing at a fastball up and out of the zone for a second-straight strikeout.
"It never looks good certainly," Roenicke said of being in Axford's situation. "But the nice thing is you have a strikeout pitcher on the mound."
The strikeout sent outfielder Carlos Beltran running for second base, and as catcher Jonathan Lucroy's throw went to shortstop Alex Gonzalez, Cardinals' pinch runner Tyler Greene took off for home.
But Gonzalez snuffed out the St. Louis baserunning ploy. He threw Greene out at home, securing Axford's 48th-straight save in memorable fashion.
It certainly wasn't the easiest save Axford has tallied in his 48-straight save streak. And with 36 more saves to go until he would match former Dodgers' closer Eric Gagne's longest-ever save streak, Axford will likely need a few more of these close calls to go his way to match Gagne's nearly-untouchable streak.
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