Braun, McGehee, bullpen lifts Brewers over Cubs
Axford matched a franchise record with his 25th consecutive save to cap four scoreless innings by Milwaukee's bullpen to lift the Brewers to a 3-2 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.
"It's pretty cool," Axford said. "That's more a testament to the team than anything else. I put myself into some sticky situations during this run and to have the closer's job is to close every game and get us the win. That's the most important thing."
It's been a heady ascent for the 28-year-old who at one point was bartending in Canada and pitching in an independent league.
Axford has converted 52 of 57 opportunities since taking the closer's role from all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman last year and the Brewers went out and picked up single-season saves leader Francisco Rodriguez in a trade with the Mets the night of the All-Star game.
"His personality, I think, allows him to really do any role I ask him to do," Roenicke said. "He has a different personality than most closers. I love his personality. Most closers are locked in and serious, kind of macho kinda guy. A lot of times you need that personality, but Ax is different."
"He doesn't see me when I'm in the 'pen warming up," Axford said. "There's no smiles the last couple of innings of the game when I'm getting ready. I just need to keep things loose, I think. I can't get too serious, too early. I need to save all that intensity for when I'm out there on the mound."
Ryan Braun doubled in a run and former Cubs prospect Casey McGehee added a two-run triple, giving Milwaukee all the runs it needed to improve to 34-14 at Miller Park this year following a 5-6 road trip against NL West foes.
Chris Narveson (7-6) went five innings but needed reliever Kameron Loe to bail him out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth. The Brewers bullpen of Loe, LaTroy Hawkins, Rodriguez and Axford each pitched an inning and allowed just two baserunners as a group.
"With the guys we already had in place and the addition of K-Rod, we start looking at it and our starters are definitely capable of going deep into games," McGehee said. "If we can give them the lead, I like our chances with the guys running out there."
Rodriguez struck out two in his home debut in the eighth inning after being acquired the night of the All-Star game from the Mets for two players to be named. He said it's been a big adjustment for him to return to a role he hasn't held in eight years.
"The transition has not been easy at all, but I'm trying to adjust myself as quick as possible and get the job done every time I go out there," Rodriguez said. "It's not like I was happy to get out of New York at all. A little surprised, but I understand it's a business."
Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer for the Cubs and Cubs starter Ryan Dempster (7-8) continued his string of sharp outings against Milwaukee with seven strikeouts over six innings, but took a rare loss. Since joining Chicago's rotation in 2008, Dempster is 11-2 with a 2.80 ERA against the Brewers.
His only problem came in the first after being staked a 2-0 lead from Ramirez's shot. Corey Hart led off with a double and scored on Braun's double with an out. Prince Fielder followed with a single to put runners on the corners. With two outs, McGehee hit a sharp liner to the right-field wall to give Milwaukee a 3-2 lead.
"I left a pitch out over the plate and Casey hit in the corner for a triple. I didn't honestly think that that was going to be the difference in the game. It's unfortunate," Dempster said. "They did a good job of pitching we did a good job of pitching. We just couldn't score any runs. "
Chicago had its chances. The Cubs put runners in scoring position in the second, fifth, sixth and ninth innings, but finished 0 for 6 in those situations at the plate.
In the sixth, Narveson left without getting an out when Geovany Soto singled, Marlon Byrd doubled and Carlos Pena walked, but Loe helped Narveson escape the jam thanks to two plays by McGehee at third.
First, McGehee threw out Soto at home off Alfonso Soriano's sharp grounder, and then started a rally-killing double play when Darwin Barney bounced another ball to the third baseman that the Cubs put on waivers in 2008.
"That was the game," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "When you've got bases loaded and nobody out, it's tough to come away empty there. ... Getting the ball out of the infield in that situation would have been huge. "
NOTES: Brewers CF Carlos Gomez (broken collarbone) was in the locker room following his surgery on Monday and showing off X-rays of the injury he sustained Wednesday in a win at Arizona. Gomez had a plate inserted to help the injury heal. The club hopes he can return sometime in September.