Home > Uncategorized > Axford, Loe at it again in Crew’s tight victory

Axford, Loe at it again in Crew’s tight victory

August 19, 2010

ST. LOUIS — There was a time when bringing in Kameron Loe and John Axford out of the Brewers’ bullpen was as sure a sign of a Brewers victory as anything.

Things have gotten a bit more interesting lately, but when it comes down to it, Axford and Loe are the Brewers’ No. 1 and No. 2 options out of the ‘pen. If the game is on the line, it’s a pretty safe bet that one, or both, is going to pitch in the late innings.

Lately, even a heavy workload and minor struggles have not been enough to deter manager Ken Macha from making the call for the right-handed duo. More often than not, that strategy has worked out.

With a two-run lead through six innings Tuesday night, Axford and Loe combined for the final three frames as the Crew took the first of a two-game set from the Cardinals, winning, 3-2, at Busch Stadium.

Part of the strategy being successful, Macha conceded, is getting honest assessments from the players about how they feel. The other part is common sense.

“On Sunday, Axford said he was fine, but I wasn’t going to use him because he had been in two out of three days with a lot of pitches,” Macha said.

Pitching for the seventh time in the team’s past 11 games — over a 12-day span — Loe recalled memories of his stellar month of June in Tuesday’s seventh, retiring the Cardinals in order on three groundouts and just 15 pitches. But the eighth inning was a different story.

Just when Loe appeared to be back to his usual, dominant self, he gave up a pair of singles around a grounder to short, prompting Macha to call Axford’s number.

Axford, called upon to pitch more than one inning for the ninth time this season — six of which have been saves — allowed a run on a wild pitch before escaping with the lead intact. In the ninth, Axford shut down St. Louis in order, securing his 18th save of the season.

Axford picked up his sixth save of more than an inning in length in six chances and recorded his ninth appearance of four outs or more. In 36 games this season, Axford has yet to pitch less than a full frame.

“It’s been three in a row now,” Axford said, referring to his save Thursday of 1 2/3 innings and win Saturday, in which he went two full innings. “It’s fine with me, in all honesty. If that’s the way it’s going to be, that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Loe and Axford closed out a stellar performance by right-handed starter Dave Bush, who cruised through six innings, giving up just one run — Albert Pujols’ 31st homer — on four hits and one walk with three strikeouts.

Bush (6-10) left after just 91 pitches due to a blister on his pitching hand. Before that early exit, Bush kept the Cardinals’ hitters off balance all night, allowing no more than one baserunner in any inning.

“The biggest thing was keeping the ball down,” Bush said. “There wasn’t anything in particular that was working unusually well, but I was commanding my fastball down in the zone.”

Bush outdueled rookie Jaime Garcia, whose manager said he was “in some of his best form.”

Garcia (10-6) tossed his 16th quality start of the season and fifth of no earned runs at home, giving up just three unearned runs on five hits over six innings pitched. The left-hander was roughed up in two innings, though, both of which were marked by Felipe Lopez errors.

In the third inning, Lopez’s error proved costly. Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee belted a two-run homer to center field, which capped a three-run inning and proved to be the eventual game-winner.

“We lost that game because of me. That’s all,” Lopez said. “I make those plays, we win.”

After a quiet three-game series in Colorado, McGehee was swinging as hot a bat as ever.

Entering the game just 1-for-7 against Garcia with a walk and a strikeout, McGehee hit the ball hard up the middle in each of his three at-bats, including the two-run homer.

McGehee’s second-inning single was ripped hard off Garcia’s left leg, ricocheting into foul territory on the third-base side. An inning later, McGehee belted his 19th homer of the season.

McGehee has hit safely in 12 of his past 14 games, batting .411 (23-for-56) in that stretch with five home runs and 19 RBIs. In the 21 games since July 25, when he broke a homerless streak, McGehee has gone .370 (30-for-81) with six home runs and 22 RBIs.

“It’s a whole [heck] of a lot of luck,” McGehee joked. “The biggest thing was just confidence, I think. For a while there, I was making it a little too complicated.

“I just tried to get back to trying to playing my game and not be something I’m not.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: