Axford sets Brewers single-season saves record
Closer logs No. 45, including 42 in a row, after tying mark Friday
MILWAUKEE -- John Axford is the Brewers' all-time single-season saves leader.
With a scoreless ninth on Saturday, the second-year closer picked up his 45th save of the season in the Brewers' 6-4 victory over the Marlins at Miller Park. Axford passed Francisco Cordero -- who had set the club record at 44 in 2007 -- after tying him in Friday's 4-1 victory over Florida that helped clinch the National League Central.
As he got Jose Lopez to swing and miss at a high fastball, Axford also converted his 42nd consecutive save opportunity. In his last 28 appearances, Axford has a 0.64 ERA, having allowed just two earned runs in 28 1/3 innings pitched.
His consistency, along with that of the rest of the Brewers bullpen, has been one of the keys to the club's success this season.
"After last year, I think everybody saw how good he was," said Brewers right fielder Corey Hart, who delivered the go-ahead double to give Axford the save opportunity.
"We had all the confidence in the world that he has the mentality and drive to do it. In '08, we kind of had the closer by committee. [Salomon] Torres was there, but he kind of scuffled late. It's kind of nice to have a guy who you really can count on."
But Axford insists it's the other way around.
He could not save 45 games if not for the offense and the starting pitching performing the way they have this season.
"Today, you know, I wouldn't be in that situation without them," Axford said. "You've got Jerry [Hairston] and Corey coming off the bench, coming up with big hits and scoring runs to put it in that situation for me. I can enjoy it a little more [than tying the record Friday], but it's still more about the team right now.
"We still have a lot more to accomplish these last few games here and heading into the playoffs. I'd rather just focus on that still."
When manager Ron Roenicke joined the club, he knew Axford had great stuff, but he didn't know if that stuff translated into being a dominant closer.
Now that he's seen Axford put up the numbers he has and the impressive performances on a nightly basis, Roenicke has been impressed, especially with the way Axford mixes his pitches and keeps hitters off-balance.
"Ax has got, it's a pretty special fastball," said Roenicke. "But he's got the great slider and curveball combination in that, and it's really hard to sit on one pitch. ... You expect a closer to just come right at you at times, and he'll drop a curveball in there. So it makes it really tough to sit on one pitch."
It may take until after the season for Axford to truly reflect on his accomplishments, but he does recognize the impressive nature of 45 saves and 42 in a row.
Even then, winning the NL Central division title will likely still outrank setting the Brewers' single-season saves mark.
"Every time you step out on the mound, you just want to try and do your job and get a save. That's the reason you're out there in the first place," Axford said. "Every time I go out there, I expect myself to get a save. I don't expect to blow one."
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.