Axford working way through slump

Closer has been off game, allows Rangers' winning runs

Axford working way through slump

DENVER -- Just one inning after Carlos Gonzalez erased Colorado's once-four-run deficit with an emphatic three-run homer, John Axford handed everything right back.

In just two-thirds of an inning, the Rockies' closer walked three and surrendered a go-ahead, two-run single to Elvis Andrus, propelling the Rangers to a 10-8 victory over Colorado on Wednesday afternoon at Coors Field.

Through his first 20 appearances this season, Axford was nails. He yielded just one earned run and walked only eight hitters in 19 innings, all while converting every one of his 12 save opportunities.

Numbers like that, though, have vanished. In Axford's last 11 appearances, he's surrendered nine earned runs over 9 1/3 innings -- good for a rough 8.68 ERA. More importantly, perhaps, is the Rockies' closer has issued eight free passes in that time frame, including five over his past two outings.

"The walks lately have come back to haunt him," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "I think early on, he might've been getting in some tough counts, but he was coming back and putting the at-bat away. Now, if he ends up walking a guy, he hasn't gotten away with that."

That's exactly where Wednesday's trouble began. After getting ahead of Rougned Odor, 0-2, to open the ninth, Axford couldn't finish the Rangers' second baseman off.

Odor fouled off three pitches before watching three sail out of the zone, eventually taking a 96-mph fastball up and in on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.

It was the second time in the series that Axford walked the leadoff man.

"Obviously, a leadoff walk doesn't help, but I got ahead of him," Axford said. "I threw a lot of strikes, and he fouled a lot off. Then you're just trying to get him to swing through something or hit something in play. He didn't do it."

Adrian Beltre, who delivered a go-ahead double off Axford on Monday, then poked a single to right, but a three-pitch strikeout of Mitch Moreland followed.

Up next was pinch-hitter Prince Fielder, but like he did in a similar situation on Monday, Weiss intentionally walked the Rangers' slugger to load the bases. Fielder entered that at-bat hitting .374 against right-handers and .386 with runners in scoring position.

"At that point, I'm not going to let their best hitter beat us," Weiss said. "You set up a double play and go after the next two guys. Hopefully, you get a double play and only have to face one of them."

Andrus didn't oblige, poking a 1-2 curveball past a lunging Nolan Arenado. Odor and Beltre scored easily to hand the Rangers a 10-8 lead and the series. Boone Logan's assistance was needed to finish the frame.

It was just another chapter in Axford's recent slide.

"I tried to throw a curveball down," he said. "Strikeout or have it be a ground ball. Just went through the hole."

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