Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 7/4/12
Mlb-brewers-cubs-june
MILWAUKEE Two strikes, two outs with the ninth inning winding down, John Axford is on the hill. It's a situation in which the Brewers were automatic last season, a year that saw the Milwaukee bullpen remain shockingly consistent. But on Wednesday, with Miami's Gaby Sanchez at the plate, and the Brewers in that same situation, an Axford fastball right down the middle would find its way out of the ballpark. Just one pitch away from Milwaukee riding their five-game winning streak into the Independence Day twilight, the team would lose the lead in the 10th inning. It's no longer early in the season, and with the Brewers barely hanging on in the NL Central race heading into the break, games like these one-run, close games are going to need to be taken advantage of, if Milwaukee stands any chance at a playoff berth. That means the Brewers' bullpen needs to be better. Period. With a nine-run lead yesterday, the same fate as Wednesday nearly befell Milwaukee; except, that time, they were up by seven runs when they went to the bullpen. Those mistakes can't be made twice in two weeks let alone twice in two days if this pitching staff is expected to deliver for its recently proficient offense. Before Wednesday's game, less than 24 hours after the Brewers edged out a win with a 10th-inning walk-off, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke explained that he and general manager Doug Melvin remained confident in the current set of relievers, despite the struggles. "I don't think that names have come up to where we've said we'd like to make a change with this person," Roenicke said. "As far as every person we have down there, we like. We think that they belong here. We think that they can pitch well here. I can't explain why all of them are scuffling, and at times, some of them have been really good." That certainly was true before this season's struggles began to happen more frequently, as Axford opened the season with a historically long consecutives saves streak. Setup man Francisco Rodriguez was one of the best setup men in baseball, and the team's middle relief was even consistent. That past success is proof that Roenicke's confidence in the bullpen is there for a reason. But how long can that reputation of past success sustain itself before it's too late for this season? Axford's struggles have been a microcosm of the entire season in the bullpen, as the closer's sparkling 2011 has turned into a tough-luck 2012. Without a blown save all of last season, Axford has a handful already this season, with his most recent one coming on Wednesday against the Marlins. "It's just another tough day," Axford said. "Looking back at the way things have been going, I've been feeling good. It just seems like it's one pitch." On Wednesday, that was definitely the case. One pitch gave way to a Marlins home run in the seventh, a few innings before Sanchez's home run off Axford gave way to extra innings. But it hasn't just been one pitch all season for the bullpen. It's been a problem more than it's been the solution for stretches this season. There's no reason to doubt that, at some point, the bullpen could return to its 2011 form. Axford is one of the game's best late-game talents on the mound, while Rodriguez's single-season saves record shows he's no slouch himself. But with July 4 officially marking the halfway point in Milwaukee's season, the clock is ticking on this year's bullpen. And for the rest of the Brewers, they better hope their relievers don't make them too far back at the finish line. Follow Ryan Kartje on Twitter.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Five most anticipated September MLB call-ups
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Vikings announce Teddy Bridgewater has a torn ACL

Craig Sager to undergo third bone marrow transplant

Madden 17's live commentary tackles Kaepernick controversy

Nationals' Stephen Strasburg expected to return next week

WATCH: Footage surfaces from Tim Tebow’s baseball workout

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Teddy Bridgewater suffers serious knee injury at practice?

EON Sports strikes VR partnerships with Miami, PSU

Mike Tyson accused of stealing ice cream treat at U.S. Open

Calvin Johnson to join DWTS, but sister says he ‘can’t dance’

Eagles rookie nixes anthem protest after talking to agent

Report: Romo has no ligament damage, to resume training soon

WATCH: Lorenzo Neal on the one move that caused the demise of the Chargers

Teddy Bridgewater injury puts Vikings' plans up in the air

The hottest MLB pitchers headed into September sprint

Kanye West, Saint Pablo Tour and the anti-celebrity

WATCH: John Randle on the first time he talked trash in the NFL

The hottest hitters in MLB heading into September sprint

Who has the most to prove at the US Open?

Vontaze Burfict on Steelers: ‘I don’t give no f—s about them’

Alistair Overeem: Brock Lesnar will never return to UFC

Top five Heisman Trophy candidates for 2016

Five young NFL players set to explode in 2016

A sports history of not standing up for the national anthem

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: Lorenzo Neal on the one move that caused the demise of the Chargers

The hottest MLB pitchers headed into September sprint

West-ern Literature: How Kanye's fans find meaning in between the lines

Madden 17's live commentary tackles Kaepernick controversy

Kanye West, Saint Pablo Tour and the anti-celebrity

WATCH: John Randle on the first time he talked trash in the NFL

The hottest hitters in MLB heading into September sprint

Who has the most to prove at the US Open?

A sports history of not standing up for the national anthem

Premier League notebook: The love affair at Man U

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker