HOUSTON -- John Axford's run of success as the Brewers' closer -- he converted his 29th consecutive save opportunity on Saturday night -- means he is piling up appearances at a near club-record clip. Axford appeared in 54 of the Brewers' first 114 games, putting him on pace for 77 appearances this season, which would tie former closer Derrick Turnbow for the fourth most in Brewers history. Ken Sanders has held the record since he pitched 83 games and led the Majors with 31 saves in 1971. He's followed by left-hander Ray King (82 appearances in 2001) and right-hander Todd Coffey (78 in 2009).
Sanders carried a much heavier workload than the current crop of relievers, pitching 136 1/3 innings that season. Axford, for comparison, is on a pace for 75 1/3 innings. "We've watched it," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "That hasn't come up that much. We always check with him to see how he's doing, and I don't see any stuff that is all of a sudden decreasing. He seems to maintain the velocity, maintain the breaking balls." He's also maintaining a very high level of success. After suffering blown saves in two of his first seven appearances, Axford went 29-for-29 in saves over his next 41 games through Saturday, with a 1.72 ERA and a .222 opponents' batting average. The Brewers' previous single-season record for consecutive saves belonged to Doug Jones, who converted 25 chances in 1997. Axford insisted he's less focused on the saves streak than the Brewers' winning streak. "It's nice to have [the streak], I guess it's cool," he said. "Every time you go out there, you don't want to blow a save. Your goal is to get the save and get the win, so each one of those 29 consecutive, 32 saves [overall], those are all wins. That's the most important thing." The Brewers have a clear Plan B should Axford need a break. July pickup Francisco Rodriguez is 24th on Major League Baseball's all-time leaderboard with 291 saves. Even though he's settled into a setup role for the Brewers, Rodriguez still leads the Majors with 277 since 2005.