As John Axford walked off the mound at Miller Park, the boos rained down from the home fans. And, yes, he heard them, loud and clear. “Fans are fans,” the Milwaukee Brewers closer said Wednesday afternoon after giving up yet another home run and blowing a two-run lead in the eighth inning of what became a 6-4 loss to Pittsburgh. “I know what I can do. I know what I’ve accomplished here, even if they forget. It’s just the short-term memory of a lot of fans. Obviously, they’ve forgotten what I’ve done in the past.” Indeed, it seems a million years ago since Axford had the best season of any closer in franchise history. It was 2011 when he saved 46 games in 48 chances, including his last 43 in a row. Back then, life was good protecting leads. Things began to change in the middle of last season, when Axford had a series of meltdowns that led to his removal as closer. But he got his act together, returned to the role and converted 17 of his last 18 save opportunities. That recovery prompted manager Ron Roenicke to open this season with Axford at closer but things got ugly fast. Axford allowed nine runs in 3 1/3 innings in his first four outings, allowing four homers, and again was removed as closer. Axford had pitched so well of late, however, that Roenicke began hinting of a return to closing. He had allowed just one run over his previous eight appearances, including a scoreless inning Tuesday night against the Pirates. Making the latest failure even tougher to take was the fact Axford put the ball where he wanted, for the most part. The inning started with a broken-bat infield single by pinch-hitter Travis Snider. Axford then threw a fastball down and in to leadoff hitter Starling Marte, who somehow managed to drive it far out to left-center for a game-tying homer. After a single by Jose Tabata, Axford retired the next two hitters but Tabata stole second and Brandon Inge reached out and blooped the proverbial duck snort into shallow right field for a tie-breaking hit that second baseman Rickie Weeks booted down the line for a two-base error. Lefty Michael Gonzalez took over and surrendered an RBI single to Pedro Alvarez, tacking the fourth run on Axford’s pitching line.
John Axford heard the boos
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | May 1