Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 4/4/13
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MILWAUKEE -- John Axford sat at his locker and even cracked a joke to lighten the mood. What he couldn't do is explain what just happened. With Thursday off, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke gave Axford work in the ninth inning with Milwaukee trailing 4-3. The Brewers' closer gave up three runs on five hits - including two home runs - while recording just two outs in Milwaukee's 7-3 loss to Colorado. It hasn't been the start to the season Axford has wanted in his attempt to bounce back from an up-and-down year in 2012. In the season opener Monday, Axford blew the save when Dexter Fowler hit a two-out solo home run on a first-pitch fastball. One thing noticeable has been the drop in Axford's velocity. His fastball has sat in the 91-93 miles per hour range, down from the usual 94-96. "I feel fine," Axford said. "I don't know what to say, I don't know." It's a notion around baseball that closers don't pitch well in non-closing situations, which Wednesday's outing was. Axford doesn't feel he approaches such outings any differently. "I don't think I've ever made it one," Axford said. "You want to go out there with the same intensity and the same enthusiasm no matter what the situation. It was a one-run ballgame right there. If I put up a zero right there we have a good opportunity to win the game in the ninth, especially with our offense. I didn't come through. I didn't do my job of holding it there." It wasn't just Axford that struggled against Colorado. Milwaukee's pitching staff allowed 41 hits and eight home runs in the three-game series. None of the three starting pitchers made it past the sixth inning, putting an early toll on the bullpen. "We need to pitch better," Roenicke said. "The starters, and the relievers need to. We need to get ahead of people. I know it's early but we still need to pitch better." The obvious question mark coming into the season was the pitching staff, both the rotation and rebuilt bullpen. In order for the bullpen to have success, the rotation must eventually go deeper into games and Axford must provide a steady anchor. Roenicke will have a conversation with Axford in the near future about the dip in velocity, but has had no indication his closer is hurt or suffering from a dead-arm period possibly brought on by his participation in the World Baseball Classic. Three games in, Axford isn't worried about opinions forming about him just yet. "It's way too early," Axford said. "Other than the couple of extra home runs, I was off to a worse start in the beginning of 2011. People formed opinions then, too, and things can change. It's a long season, we have 159 games left. Maybe wait until September to start forming your opinions." Follow Andrew Gruman on Twitter.
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