Jim Edmonds and Ryan Braun were both 3-4, Casey McGehee hit a three run home run, and Chris Narveson recovered from yet another awful first inning to keep the Brewers in the game, but, quite obviously, the star of the game was one John Axford. Axford converted the two inning save, entering in the eighth inning with a two run lead and a runner on second, with a Leverage Index (LI) of 2.34 – that is, 2.34 times more important than the average situation.
John Axford faced seven hitters – Jim Thome, Nick Punto, Jason Kubel, Denard Span, Orlando Hudson, Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau, and retired all but Punto (walk) and Mauer (single). All of them are left handed hitters and only Punto isn’t at least an average hitter. Mauer, Morneau, Thome and Kubel all rank as “excellent” in my book. That’s a remarkable gauntlet to face, especially for a right handed fastball specialist, and Axford came out of it with barely a scratch.
There is no reason that Axford can’t do this more often. This bullpen has struggled this season because bad or mediocre pitchers have had the ball at important times. John Axford has shown on a few occasions that he is capable of getting more than three outs at a time. Perhaps the six out save can’t be a staple, but in a pinch in the 8th inning, Axford is more than capable of finishing the inning and then the game.
John Axford looked and pitched like Rollie Fingers tonight. Ken Macha was very brave in allowing his relief ace to go two full innings and record a big time save against our “natural rivals.” He shouldn’t be afraid to stray from the conventional closer role more often – in my mind, there’s no question that the Brewers would benefit from continued outside-the-box bullpen usage. Please, Mr. Macha, keep letting John Axford pitch multiple innings.