Axford ties club saves streak

New Brewers manager Ron Roenicke watched his closer’s first handful of Spring Training outings and wondered if the team had made a huge mistake. John Axford couldn’t command the baseball.

Four months later, Axford is on a franchise-record run of success. He converted his 25th consecutive save opportunity Tuesday night, tying Doug Jones’ club record from 1997 and sealing the Brewers’ 3-2 win over the Cubs at Miller Park.

“It’s not something you want to think about when you’re out there, that’s for sure,” Axford said of his streak. “As long as you’re getting a save, your team is winning, and that’s the most important thing.”

His most important asset, besides the 97 mph fastballs and knee-buckling curves, has been the command that eluded Axford in Spring Training and into April. It took him eight regular-season outings to throw his first 1-2-3 inning on April 23 against the Astros, his first appearance after blowing his second blown save in his fifth chance.

“That really could have been it,” Axford said. “I got a good feeling after that, and things kept rolling. It was never anything physical, never anything psychological. Sometimes baseball is funny that way.”

Axford is 28-for-30 in save opportunities this year and has held the closer’s role despite the arrival of single-season saves king Francisco Rodriguez via trade with the Mets. A year ago, Axford went 24-for-27 in saves as the replacement for all-time saves kind Trevor Hoffman.

It’s not supposed to be this easy.

“Well, I don’t think it’s been easy,” said fellow reliever Kameron Loe. “I’m sure he’d tell you that. He’s grinded some of those saves. He just puts in as hard of work as you can, every day.”

He’s come a long way from concerning the skipper.

“You mean about the command being all over the place? Yeah, I was [concerned],” Roenicke said. “But he had done a good job taking over for Hoffman, and it takes a pretty strong personality to do that. Even though I was concerned about his command, I still felt good about him being our closer.”

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