SAN FRANCISCO -- John Axford's season of extremes continued Monday when he did something particularly embarrassing: He aired an intentional ball four to the backstop.
Axford was the losing pitcher in the Brewers' 4-2 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park, a game decided in an ugly eighth inning that began with Axford walking Hunter Pence, a former division rival whom he'd held to one hit in 10 previous matchups. Pence stole second with one out, then took third when Axford's ball four to Pablo Sandoval sailed over catcher Jonathan Lucroy for a wild pitch.
Two Brewers relievers and two Giants batters later, Jeff Francoeur delivered the bloop single that gave San Francisco a lead for good.
"Never done that before in my life," Axford said of his very wild pitch. "That ball, before I was even throwing it, was slipping out of my hand. I don't know. I tried to overcompensate in some way, and I just airmailed it."
Monday marked Axford's sixth straight outing in which he either allowed a run of his own or an inherited runner to score. His ERA, which was as high as 24.30 on April 9 and as low as 3.38 on July 24, is back up to 4.47.
"It's tough after all those great outings that I had, then to have this skid again," Axford said. "It's been constant for the last six outings and it's frustrating, it really is. Today, I guess the fact of the matter is I didn't get the job done. I tried to keep the ball down, and it was too down. Then I tried to get it back up, and it was too up. I just couldn't find it.
"At one point, I used to be dependable in the back end of the 'pen. That's where I want to be again. I want to be that guy who's depended on and can do the job, and I intend to be that guy again soon."
Braun stays mum after new suspensions
SAN FRANCISCO -- Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun remained silent Monday in the wake of 13 additional suspensions levied by Major League Baseball, the result of the league's investigation into the Florida wellness clinic known as Biogenesis. The new bans were levied exactly two weeks after MLB suspended Braun for the Brewers' remaining 65 regular-season games.
"It's obviously a good step to clean up this game," said reliever John Axford, the Brewers' Players Association representative. "That's something every player wants, they want a clean sport. As far as that goes, I think that's definitely a positive."
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez on Monday received the stiffest penalty -- a 211-game ban without pay through the end of the 2014 regular season. Rodriguez, 38, has appealed the suspension, which is to begin Thursday. His case will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. Rodriguez's discipline, MLB said in its written announcement, is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the basic agreement is for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to "obstruct and frustrate" the investigation.
The other players who were handed 50-game suspensions include Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo and recently demoted Mets utility man Jordany Valdespin. Minor Leaguers Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, Fautino de los Santos, Cesar Puello and Sergio Escalona were also suspended.
Cruz appeared in eight games for the Brewers in September 2005 and was traded to Texas the following July. The Brewers acquired de los Santos from the A's last season in a trade for catcher George Kottaras, but he never appeared for Milwaukee in the Majors. The Padres claimed him off waivers in February.
RULES FOR SUSPENDED PLAYERS
|What they can't do:|
|Cannot receive pay|
|Cannot participate in Arizona Fall League|
|Cannot participate in Postseason games|
|Cannot be elected or selected to the All-Star Game (if player is suspended during the offseason, Spring Training, or championship season prior to the All-Star Game)|
|What they can do:|
|Can participate in Spring Training and extended spring training|
|Can participate in affiliated Winter League games|
|Can work out with the club|
|Can participate in batting practice before the gates open before a game|
|Can consent to an assignment to a Minor League affiliate for a period of time prescribed under Section 7.H.2 of the Joint Drug Program|
Several Brewers expressed sympathy for the teammates of the newly suspended players, because they were left to answer the same tough questions they themselves struggled with just two weeks ago.
"You just have to step past it," Axford said. "That's what these teams are going to have to do. Some of these teams were looking ahead to this already -- they had ideas and thoughts that this was going to happen. But until it actually happens, you don't know what to expect. For us, it was just about moving forward and playing out the rest of the year. Obviously, we haven't forgotten about Brauny, by any means, but it seems everyone has moved past it pretty well."
Said Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy: "It's tough for these other teams, especially the ones in the playoff races. You lose your big guys. It's tough, but it's part of the process, and I'm glad to see the game is getting cleaned up. Hopefully this will all be behind us soon so everybody can focus on baseball. This has been a dark cloud over the game for a little bit, and hopefully we can get this cleaned up, move on and guys don't try to do it anymore."
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, who played parts of eight Major League seasons, echoed that sentiment, saying, "We want everybody to be on an equal playing field."
With the rest of the Biogenesis suspensions in the open, is it time for Braun to talk?
"I've texted back and forth and I'll probably call him shortly, but that's his decision," Roenicke said. "I know which way I would like him to go. He knows. He knows how Mark [Attanasio, the team's principal owner] feels, he knows how Doug [Melvin, the general manager] feels, and I think he probably knows how the players and the fans feel."
Roenicke could not say whether he expects to see Braun in the near future. MLB rules allow Braun to be with the team during his suspension, as long as he leaves the field when stadium gates open to fans.
• Roenicke cited progress for right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. Gallardo played long toss Saturday and is expected to throw off the mound later this week.
Tentatively, Gallardo is scheduled to be activated Aug. 16 against the Reds, Roenicke said, the day after he is first eligible.
"He should fall right back into that rotation," Roenicke said.
• Third baseman Aramis Ramirez was to test his sprained left knee on the bases Monday and, assuming no setback, again Wednesday, Roenicke said. Ramirez, who has been bothered by the knee all season, is penciled in to serve as the Brewers' designated hitter this weekend in Seattle.
• How good an impression has outfielder Caleb Gindl made on his bosses in the wake of the Braun suspension? Roenicke nearly batted the rookie in the three-hole Monday before putting catcher Jonathan Lucroy in that spot and hitting Gindl fifth.
Beyond Gindl's .366 average in his 14 games prior to Monday, Roenicke praised "the approach, the part where I see him going the other way. It's been good. I saw him do it in Spring Training two years ago, I think. But that's Spring Training. You never know until you see him in this situation. [Opponents] have seen enough of him, and he's still having good at-bats."