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John Axford Does Little To Alleviate Milwaukee Brewers’ Bullpen Concerns On Opening Day

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Day is supposed to be the official start of a clean slate for MLB teams and players. Hope Springs eternal, so they say.

It didn’t start that way on Monday for the Milwaukee Brewers, who played from behind against the Colorado Rockies for most of the afternoon.

By the time it got to top of the ninth inning, however, things had turned around — the team had put together a three-run rally off Rockies reliever Wilton Lopez, keyed by a two-run double from Aramis Ramirez to to take a 4-3 lead. The Brew Crew was three outs away from giving themselves and their home fans on the first day of the season.

But then John Axford took the mound, and things went from good to looking as though not much had changed from the Brewers’ disappointing 2012 season.

To his credit, the closer did his job — for the most part, anyway. Axford did manage to strike out the side all on swinging strikeouts, so it wasn’t as though he has having a whole lot of trouble fooling folks.

The problem? The one hitter he couldn’t fool, Dexter Fowler, took him to deep right field for a game-tying home run.

Axford blew nine saves in 2012 in a career-worst replacement level year (0.0 fWAR) with a 4.67/1.44 ERA/WHIP, and that he get off to an early start in that dubious department couldn’t have done very much for his leash in the ninth, regardless of his excellent strikeout ability.

While it was almost certainly a hit to the Brewer’s confidence, the team did not let Axford’s mistake sink them, rallying in walk-off fashion the 10th inning off Adam Ottavino courtesy of a sac-fly from Jonathan Lucroy.

So, the game was a story with a happy ending, and while Brewers fans likely went home satisfied from the thriller, I imagine that the team’s first blown save will be lingering into Axford’s next appearance. It’s not normally anything to worry about at this time of year, but first impressions count a whole lot after down season, and the righty did make a very good one on Monday.

It’s the last thing the Brewers needed, but it looks as though the bullpen concerns aren’t likely to go away anytime soon.