MILWAUKEE -- John Axford's 47th consecutive regular-season save on Tuesday tied him with Brad Lidge for the fourth-longest streak in the history of the stat. Up next is Jose Valverde's 51, a run that ended this Opening Day.Here's a closer look at Axford's run of success. Twenty-nine of the 47 saves have come at home, no surprise since the Brewers were baseball's best home team in 2011 and managers generally can much more easily get to their closers at home. Axford has allowed three earned runs in 29 innings in those games, for a 0.93 ERA. All but one of the 47 saves have spanned one full inning. The lone exception came on April 9, when Axford recorded only the final two outs of a 7-5 win over the Cubs. And there are no multi-inning saves, a change from 2010, Axford's first taste of life as a closer, when then-manager Ken Macha often used him for saves of four outs or more. Axford likes to make things interesting. Only 19 of the 47 saves have been 1-2-3, and in only 13 of those has he struck out the side. He's faced four batters, as he did on Tuesday, 14 times, five batters eight times and six batters six times. The strikeout is his friend. Tuesday marked only the 12th time during the 47-save streak that Axford did not strike out at least one batter. He has one strikeout in 15 saves, two strikeouts in 14 saves and three strikeouts in six saves. Twenty of the 47 saves have come when Axford pitched the day before. "I feel fortunate and lucky to get out there for that many opportunities," Axford said. The top three save streaks belong to Eric Gagne (84 from Aug. 28, 2002, to July 3, 2004), Tom Gordon (54 from April 19, 1998, to May 31, 1999) and Valverde (51 from Sept. 4, 2010, to Sept. 28, 2011). "There's only a handful of guys in all of baseball who can really put a game away like that, where the opposing team, they see a guy come in and you see their balloon pop," said Randy Wolf, the winning pitcher for Axford's first save of the streak, on April 24, 2011, and the winner again for No. 47 exactly one year later, on Tuesday. "He's got that funky delivery, throws upper 90s; he's got explosive stuff," Wolf said. "He's a great find. He's huge for us." Said manager Ron Roenicke: "We realize that ninth inning is not as easy for other clubs."
Durability is K-Rod's calling card
MILWAUKEE -- Manager Ron Roenicke had a chat with Francisco Rodriguez on Wednesday morning, just like he does with every reliever, every day.
How do you feel? Can you go today?
These chats happen out of earshot, but we can confidently tell you K-Rod's answer.
"No manager, nobody, is ever going to hear me complain that they use me too much," said Rodriguez, 30, the closer-turned-baseball's most famous setup man. "I prepare every day to pitch, and I'm going to keep it that way."
Has he ever told a manager he needed a day?
"No. This is my 10th year in the big leagues, and I've never said that to a manager," he said. "I hope to not ever say that to a manager."
Rodriguez said all this on Tuesday night after bailing the Brewers out of a jam in the eighth inning of a 9-6 win over the Astros. He pitched for the third straight day, and the fourth time in five days.
Wednesday's series finale was set to start about 13 hours later.
"I'll be fine," he said.
Drama brewing between Brewers, Astros?
MILWAUKEE -- Is there some bad blood between the Brewers and Astros?When Astros starter Bud Norris used his first pitch to plunk Rickie Weeks on Tuesday, Norris handed Weeks a Brewers record. It was Weeks' 96th career HBP, passing Geoff Jenkins for the most by a Brewer. But Norris made clear after the game that his wayward pitch was no accident. It was retaliation for a collision at home plate on Monday, when Mat Gamel lowered his left shoulder into Astros catcher Jason Castro. "It kind of got away from me," Norris said, then added, "I'm going to go out there and stand up for my team. I think the umpires handled it professionally, our team handled it professionally and Rickie handled it professionally as well. Nothing personal against him. It is what it is." Astros manager Brad Mills said earlier in the day that he thought Gamel had enough of home plate available to slide. The other Astros catcher, Chris Snyder, was also unhappy. For his part, Castro told reporters he considered it a clean play. Snyder was plunked by a Shaun Marcum curveball leading off the second inning on Wednesday. Manager Ron Roenicke had little to say on Wednesday about the Astros' decision to seek payback. "I think it was a clean play, but like I told Gamel, I would rather he slide," Roenicke said. Gamel missed a second straight game on Wednesday with a sore left shoulder but is "a lot better," Roenicke said.
Gamel should be back in the lineup on Friday in St. Louis.
Entering Wednesday's game, three weeks into the season, the Brewers led the National League in home runs, with 24. The D-backs, Cardinals and Braves were tied for second, with 21.
They padded that lead in the first inning of Wednesday's finale against the Astros, with Ryan Braun connecting on his fourth long ball of 2012, and Travis Ishikawa added his second of the season in the second inning.Is that surprising, considering Prince Fielder is no longer in the lineup? "I'm probably surprised that we're leading it, but I still thought we'd hit our home runs," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Our lineup, when everybody is swinging right, is a dangerous lineup." Roenicke likes the distribution of power so far. Ten of the first 24 homers came with at least one man on base. Pressed on the Brewers' recent issues with middle relief, Roenicke suggested that Manny Parra's spot in the bullpen is not guaranteed simply because he's the team's only left-handed option. The Brewers had an all-righty relief corps for most of the second half last season. The key for Parra, Roenicke said, is throwing strike one. "He's got to get ahead," Roenicke said. "Once he gets ahead, he's fine."
Limited spots remain for the Sausage Race 5K Run/Walk on July 28, an annual event that sells out every year. For information and an entry form, visit brewers.com/5kRunWalk.