Clubhouse manager Tony Migliaccio was waiting for Axford when the upset right-hander retreated to the clubhouse in the middle of the ninth inning on Friday night, a one-run lead having just slipped away in what would turn into a marathon win over the Cubs. It was Axford's first blown save in more than a year after 49 successful conversions, the fourth-longest saves streak in the history of the stat.
Migliaccio had news. Axford's pregnant wife, Nicole, was waiting outside the clubhouse. She was having contractions.
"My attitude changed immediately," John Axford said. "I realized, obviously, there was more to life than what just happened out on the field."
Nicole Axford was only 33 weeks pregnant, not due to give birth to the couple's second child until June 28. Her primary physician just happened to be sitting 10 rows in front of her at Friday's game, and did a quick examination right there in the stands. She suggested they get to the hospital.
So John quickly showered, dressed and left a handwritten note for reporters explaining his absence. The doctor was able to stop the contractions, and Nicole Axford was expected to be released from the hospital on Sunday.
Since then, John's note to reporters has gone viral. It went like this:
"I put my wife into contractions with my performance tonight! The streak is over so now you can talk about it. The luck I've had in the past didn't show up tonight! All I can do is start another streak and keep my head up!
"Cliché... cliché... cliché... another cliché. Gotta go! Love, Ax."
On Sunday, he smiled about the note and the national attention it's received.
"I didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal," Axford said. "Originally, I just wanted to make myself smile a little bit, too, because right after I came in I was pretty upset."
That changed with the passage of a few days, a pair of Brewers wins over the Cubs to start the three-game series and news that mom and baby-to-be were doing well. The couple plans to name their second son Jameson.
As for the end of his saves streak?
"I was obviously upset with the way it went [on Friday]," Axford said. "The last two outings haven't been the greatest. Kind of like I put in my note, the luck just hasn't been there the last two times. It seems like the baseball gods are upset that somehow I weaseled my way out of the one in St. Louis somehow, and now they're making me pay for it."
He notched a save in St. Louis on April 29 after the Cardinals put runners at first and third base with nobody out in a one-run game. Axford followed with a clean save on May 4 in San Francisco, but since then has allowed five runs (three earned) in a pair of outings. He has a loss and a blown save to show for it.
On Friday, the Cubs' rally began with an error. They later scored the go-ahead run on a strikeout/wild pitch.
"It's tough when you strike out three guys and you still don't get out of an inning. The luck just wasn't there," Axford said. "Every time you step out there, you want to get a save. You want to lock down a win for your team. ... Looking back to see that it was more than a year that I went without a blown save ... I'm just glad I could hold down those wins, get those saves and get wins for the team.
"Last year, at the moment I blew those two saves early on, I didn't think I was going to be in the situation I was in at the beginning of this year, with that many saves in a row. Hopefully, I can start something like that again."