When you have a debut like John Axford had, things can only get better.
On July 31, the Dodgers traded for Axford, with the hopes of him being a reliable set-up man to Kenley Jansen.
It wasn’t until August 4 that he made his Dodger debut, and boy, was it one he would like to forget. In just 1⁄3 of an inning, Axford allowed six runs, courtesy of three hits, two walks, and a hit-by-pitch.
Not a great way to introduce yourself to Dodgers fans.
All it took was 1⁄3 of an inning for Dave Roberts to almost lose confidence in a guy that was brought over to solidify the bullpen.
For the 35-year-old, he sat in the bullpen for almost a week, waiting for his chance to go back out there and prove to his manager and his teammates he can be a trustworthy go-to man late in the game.
On August 10, he got his second chance.
After the first batter, it looked as if things were going to be an encore of what he experienced in his first start. Chris Iannetta led the eighth inning off with a triple, and already the Rockies were knocking on the doorstep.
Trailing only a run, it was crucial that the Dodgers try and head into the ninth with a manageable one-run deficit.
Axford showed he was ready for the moment, throwing three straight strikes, sending Pat Valaika back to the bench on a 97-mph fastball.
The lineup then flipped over, and Charlie Blackmon stepped up to the plate. On a 1-0 pitch, Blackmon grounded one right at Axford, who looked over at third, and then threw to first to get the second out of the inning.
DJ LeMahieu stepped up to the plate. The second-baseman saw four straight fastballs, all touching 95-mph, going down swinging on a high pitch out of the zone.
After looking as if Axford would open the flood gates, he managed to escape the jam, showing the potential the front-office saw when they traded for him.
Axford wouldn’t wait nearly as long for his next outing, as he was called upon two days later. Much like his last outing, the right-hander was entering the game with a one-run lead.
This time, he got through the inning untouched. Ian Desmond grounded out, followed by back-to-back strikeouts. Ryan McMahon, who was the hero of the previous two games, looked at a 98-mph fastball for strike three. Iannetta, who tripled off Axford the previous night, watched the seventh pitch of the at-bat dot the corner at 97.5-mph for strike three.
After tying the game in the top-half of the eighth, Axford was sent back out to the mound. Though he didn’t have any strikeouts, he managed to get a quick 1-2-3 inning on only 10 pitches.
With the Dodgers, Axford has only pitched 3 1⁄3 innings, so his sample size is small. However, since his disastrous debut, Axford has looked good, and he’s showed his ability to consistently hit the upper 90’s.
In desperate need of a closer, it looks as if John Axford could slowly work his way into the role. During his career, Axford has accumulated 144 saves, with most of them coming with Milwaukee from 2010-2012.
In his career, Axford has a 3.31 ERA in the ninth inning. He has 322 strikeouts in 258 2⁄3 innings.
In 2018, Axford has also proven to be one of the better relievers against left-handed hitters. On the season, left-handed opponents are hitting .143. With a WHIP of 0.95, Axford is striking out 33.3 percent of lefties that he faces.
With the bullpen being a mess right now, figuring out who the Dodgers’ closer will be is up in the air. Dave Roberts hasn’t said whether or not he’ll give it to anyone, so it’s essentially an open-tryout until Kenley comes back, or unless someone truly runs away with it.
Should the Dodgers consider John Axford as their closer?
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