There's only so many ways to say it; John Axford has been terrible this year. In what has been a banner year for closer terribleness, Ax has certainly done his share to deface the closer "position". Tonight was no different. Entering with a 2-0 lead, Axford walked utility guy Matt Carpenter and after two loud outs to Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman, gave up an unfortunate infield hit to Rafael Furcal and walked utility guy Skip Shumaker. Unacceptable. Matt Holliday drove a pitch up the middle to score two and tie the game and Allen Craig drove in one that would be the game-winner.
Ax's control was horrific tonight, as it has been all season. Can't locate the fastball, can't get the curveball over for strikes, doesn't throw the slider near as much as he should considering how bad the other two pitches have been. The only part of the zone he can even remotely touch is the upper half, which is bad news considering his fastball is as straight as a string. His home run rate has skyrocketed and it's made much worse with all the free passes he's handed out.
John Axford, probably not throwing a strike.
In a season that's hanging by a thread, the Brewers can't afford to give away so many games late. Axford has blown six saves as well as owning six losses, and while he's certainly been terrible, there's no real solution. Francisco Rodriguez is the next obvious choice to close, and he's been walk- and tater-prone this year as well. But even with him (hopefully) pitching better than Ax in the 9th, who's going to pitch the 8th? Jose Veras has been just as bad as Ax, Manny Parra is unreliable, Kameron Loe is not fit to face lefties or pitch in many consecutive games, Tyler Thornburg is now starting and don't even bring the thought of Livan Hernandez into your head. The best solution is probably a Parra/Loe platoon, but that's not exactly a situation any manager should look forward to.
I don't know if Ax will still be the closer after tonight, but in all honesty, I don't know if tossing him from the role is going to help the team all that much. Fans may taunt Ax on Twitter or call Roenicke an imbecile for leaving him in the closer role, but face the facts, the entire bullpen is a huge problem and switching one role is not going to make it better.