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Sunday, December 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 27.0° F  Overcast
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John Axford is saving the Brewers' chances
John Axford
John Axford

A week ago, Brewers fans were growing dyspeptic over talk that beleaguered Trevor Hoffman might return as the club's closer. The 42-year-old Hoffman is Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader, with 596 over his 18-year career. (Yankee Mariano Rivera is second with 543.)

After Hoffman notched 37 saves in Milwaukee last year, the Brewers officially made the pursuit of 600 a big deal by hoisting a countdown banner at Miller Park. With five saves this year - and, more important, five blown saves - the banner has been frozen at 596 since early May.

"I certainly would like Trevor to reach his goal," Ken Macha, the ever-inscrutable Brewers manager, said last week. "If that's getting 600, I'd like to get that done for him. Or 610 or whatever he wants."

Since blowing his last save on May 18, giving up three runs on four hits and a walk, retiring nobody, Hoffman has been decent in low-pressure situations, but hasn't been given any more save opportunities.

That's become the domain of rookie John Axford. The 6'5", 195-pound Canadian with the scruffy mustache has recorded eight saves without a single blown opportunity this year. He looked particularly impressive in two outings against Minnesota last week, striking out perennial All-Star Justin Morneau to end games on back-to-back nights. In 20 innings this season, he has struck out 25 and given up only six runs.

Hoffman famously took the mound in the ninth to AC/DC's "Hell's Bells." Maybe it's time to come up with an anthem for The Ax.

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