Axford, K-Rod hold their back end of the bargain

Axford, K-Rod hold their back end of the bargain

MILWAUKEE -- This is why the Brewers acquired Francisco Rodriguez at the All-Star break.

When general manager Doug Melvin made the deal with the Mets for the veteran closer, the Crew envisioned a dominant back end of the bullpen duo in Rodriguez and closer John Axford. As the Brewers clinched the National League Central title Friday night, they got exactly what they were looking for.

"It's been an amazing 2 1/2 months," Rodriguez said. "We play so many close games, and my job was to get the ball to Ax. I'm glad I did. Now, we have to go harder."

With two on and one out in the eighth, the aptly nicknamed K-Rod came on and delivered a pair of strikeouts to get the Brewers out of a jam with the score still tied at 1. After a three-run blast by Ryan Braun put the Brewers ahead, 4-1, over the Marlins, it was Axford's turn.

Axford was lights-out, retiring the Florida hitters in order to close out the victory. In the process, Axford tied Francisco Cordero for the Brewers' single-season saves record with 44.

Axford, like Rodriguez, focused more on the bigger picture than individual accomplishments.

"It's insignificant, honestly, in comparison to what's going on right now," Axford said of the saves record. "It is awesome on an individual standpoint to get it, but this is a team game and a team night. It's been that way the entire year, I think.

"I can't be in that situation out there with the other team without Prince [Fielder], without Ryan today, and especially without Yovani [Gallardo] and K-Rod doing the efforts that they did. This isn't about [the saves record]. It's definitely about clinching the title, and this is for Milwaukee and for the fans and for everybody here."

Since joining the Brewers, Rodriguez has gone 4-0 with a 2.07 ERA, allowing six runs over 26 innings in 28 appearances. Over the same stretch, Axford has 21 saves in as many chances, with only three earned runs allowed in 29 1/3 innings for an 0.95 ERA.

Both pitchers were noticeably fired up for their performances on the big stage Friday in front of a crowd of 44,584 at Miller Park. And they were as impressive as they've been all season, needing just 24 pitches between them to get the last five outs.

"You try to contain it a little bit," Axford said. "When the crowd was roaring and screaming [about the Cubs' lead over the Cardinals], I kind of knew what it was, but I didn't want to turn around and look at the scoreboard.

"I happened to glance over and see anyways that the Cubs were up, 4-1. I think that's where I got the real big boost. It's just been awesome. ... This team's unbelievable."

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.