Axford caps Brewers' dominant relief

Axford caps Brewers' dominant relief

Axford caps Brewers' dominant relief
MILWAUKEE -- John Axford got the save, but not without a little scare for the Brewers.

With two out in the ninth inning of Sunday's Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, the Cardinals' Jon Jay lined a ball back up the middle and off the right forearm of Axford, who managed to scoop it up and throw to first for the out. Axford secured his second save of the postseason, and more importantly, the X-rays came back negative.

"Everything is good," he said after the game. "We'll see when I play catch tomorrow, but I think I'm going to be fine. It grazed off the back part of the forearm and the hip. I call those my changeup muscles. And I don't have a changeup."

Axford got the save just one game after his first blown save since April, which snapped a streak of converting 44 straight opportunities. Even better, Milwaukee moved within three wins of its first World Series appearance since 1982.

With the starting pitchers each giving up six runs, Game 1 of the NLCS came down to a battle of the bullpens.

With their combination of Takashi Saito, Francisco Rodriguez and Axford, the Brewers bested the Cards, who used Octavio Dotel, Lance Lynn, Kyle McClellan, Marc Rzepczynski and Mitchell Boggs over the final five innings.

"Our back end of our bullpen has been solid, especially after we got Frankie," said Axford. "Knowing that we've got four or five guys back there that can shut it down, hopefully that makes them think and puts a little pressure on them."

Dotel was the first reliever into the game, and he surrendered a pair of runs in the Brewers' six-run fifth inning. After Lynn threw a scoreless sixth, McClellan allowed the ninth run of the game for the Crew.

Conversely, the Milwaukee bullpen delivered three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out four batters. Rodriguez pitched one of the cleanest innings he's had in a while, striking out two batters and showing just why he's nicknamed K-Rod.

In the seventh, Saito gave up a single, putting two on with none out for St. Louis. But he then delivered one of the key moments of the game, as he got Albert Pujols to ground into a double play one batter later.

"You certainly don't want him to drive the ball somewhere, and he hits that ball on the ground," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "They score another run, but we get the two outs. That was a big play for us."

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