ST. LOUIS -- It was Brewers shortstop Jean Segura and his .361 batting average atop the National League leaderboard at the start of Sunday's games. The day before, it was Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez at .352.
The teammates have enjoyed jockeying for that spot in recent days.
"I told him a few days ago, 'Hey, it would be awesome if we go like this the whole year,'" said Gomez, who slipped to third behind Segura and Cincinnati's Joey Votto as of Sunday morning. "But it's a long way to go."
He added: "I have to get back up there today."
Gomez would take his hacks from the cleanup spot Sunday, his first Major League start hitting fourth. Before he walked through the clubhouse doors on Sunday morning, it had been the only spot Gomez had never seen his name in a Major League starting lineup.
He entered the day hitting .345, including .405 (45-for-111) with six home runs and 16 RBIs over his last 31 games despite a mostly quiet road trip (7-for-34). More than half of Gomez's hits entering Sunday (30 of 51) were up the middle or to the opposite field, and four of his six home runs were to center.
Whether the day would bring four hits or four strikeouts, batting cleanup meant something to Gomez.
"Big progress," he said.
When reminded that he batted fourth in a handful of Spring Training games, Gomez said with a big smile, "Spring Training doesn't count. We are in business here."
Roenicke pleased to see more animated Axford
ST. LOUIS -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was happy to hear that John Axford is planning to adopt a more animated presence on the pitcher's mound.
The usually reserved Axford punched his right fist into his glove after striking out Daniel Descalso with the bases full of Cardinals in the eighth inning of a tie game Saturday night and told reporters afterward that he planned to show more emotion in future outings. He has been searching for ways to shake the issues that cost him the closer's role and drove his ERA above 9.00 as recently as last week.
"Look, change!" Roenicke said. "Do something different! This game, you play so many games and so many days in a row where you're out there, and when you're scuffling with something, don't be afraid to make a change. I don't get the mentality that, 'I'm going to stick with the same thing, regardless of what happens.'"
Roenicke paused, and before a reporter could fire a follow-up question about his commitment to slumping second baseman Rickie Weeks, he added, "If I'm sticking with someone in the lineup, it's because there's a lot of history there and the options aren't better. If I'm doing something the same way, at least there's some sense to it, I guess.
"But I don't know. Cal Ripken changed his stance 50 times a year, every year. You know, if this isn't working, I'm going to try something different."
Weeks, by the way, was back in the Brewers' starting lineup Sunday with a .175 batting average.
Axford was back in the bullpen, although probably unavailable for duty on Sunday after throwing 33 pitches the night before. He was not near his sharpest on Saturday against the Cardinals, throwing only 13 strikes versus 20 balls -- a rare combination for a game's winning pitcher. Descalso struck out on a slider that would have been ball three.
But the pitch before was a 98 mph fastball, a good sign considering Axford had worked with diminished velocity in some previous outings.
"I've been feeling really good lately," he said. "I think I just kind of looked in the mirror and have gone a little deeper inside myself the last few outings. … I kind of dug in and realized I need to do a little bit more."
Gonzalez seeking better results against lefties
ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers began the season with three left-handed relievers, but this weekend were down to one -- and that one has been struggling to retire left-handed hitters.
With Tom Gorzelanny and Chris Narveson on the disabled list, the Brewers' only active left-handed pitcher is Michael Gonzalez, who was called upon Saturday to face lefty-swinging Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay and surrendered a tying single.
Including that hit, left-handers are 10-for-32 against Gonzalez this season with two doubles and two walks.
"I don't know. We talked about it today, just the pitches he has been trying to make, he has not been locating like he was used to," manager Ron Roenicke said. "He certainly has the stuff to get out lefties. Last night, he tried to go down and away and he threw it up and away."
That was against Jay, who prompted a call to the bullpen for Gonzalez with the Brewers leading by one and the tying runner in scoring position. Jay blooped that misplaced pitch to left field for a tying single.
"I think it's just phases you go through that from one year to the next can change," Roenicke said. "I look at lefty-righty matchups. Well, you may look at this year and it says he gets out lefties way better than righties, and then you go back and look back at 2012 and it's just the opposite. I would say more than half the time it's opposite, and it makes no sense to me. If you get out right-handers, it seems you should always get out right handers, but the numbers tell me it's not the case."
What does that mean for Gonzalez, who held left-handed hitters to a 1.79 batting average last season for the Washington Nationals?
"I think his stuff is fine. He doesn't throw 95 [mph] like he used to, and that's an adjustment he has to make," Roenicke said.