Cardinals reliever John Axford is eligible for arbitration for the second time in his career and he is looking at a raise over 2013’s $5 million salary, despite posting a combined 4.35 ERA over the past two seasons. As salaries cannot be cut by more than 20 percent, he will make at least $4 million if he goes through the arbitration process. The Cardinals have more than enough quality relief pitching to boot. As a result, the 30-year-old is likely to be non-tendered prior to tomorrow’s deadline, per MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch.
Axford will still draw interest from other teams — including the Cardinals — after he is non-tendered. In fact, Charlie Wilmoth of MLB Trade Rumors even suggests the possibility that Axford could still wind up with a two-year deal, which is quite rare among non-tendered players.
The Brewers traded Axford to the Cardinals just before the waiver deadline in August for a player to be named later (Michael Blazek). In 10.1 innings with the Cardinals, the right-hander struck out 11 and walked three while posting a 1.74 ERA, pitching mostly in the seventh and eighth innings. In the post-season, Axford made two appearances in each of the Cardinals’ three series, pitching a total of 5.2 innings with nine strikeouts, four walks, and a 1.59 ERA.
One team has punched its ticket to the Fall Classic. Two teams are looking to join them, with the Dodgers carrying the distinct advantage. Los Angeles needs only a split in the final two games of the NLCS while Milwaukee needing to win both games at home. Doable? Absolutely. But to do it, the Brewers are going to have to wake up their sleepy bats.
NLCS Game 6
Dodgers vs. Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Time: 8:39 PM Eastern
Pitchers: Hyun-Jin Ryu vs Wade Miley
The Dodgers will give the ball to left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who tossed seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but allowed two runs and tossed 72 pitches, failing to get out of the fifth inning, in Game 2 against Milwaukee. Even if he again turns in a short outing Dave Roberts should feel pretty confident, however, as the Dodgers’ bullpen — considered a question mark coming into this series — has allowed only three runs in in 21 and two-thirds innings of work.
For Milwaukee it’s once again Wade Miley, who was the Game 5 “starter,” but who pitched to only one batter. I suppose it’s possible that Craig Counsell will burn him like that again, but it seems more likely that Miley will actually pitch in this game rather than be used as a decoy.
As I noted the other day, though, the Brewers’ pitching gamesmanship has not really been a factor in this series. The real problem for them has been their offense. They’ve scored only 16 runs in five games while batting .219. That’s actually identical to the Dodgers’ run total and average overall, but L.A. has been better at distributing that meager offense. Milwaukee has been cold at the worst times, too, going 5-for-35 with runners in scoring position in the series, including one for their last 11. If that doesn’t change, their season ends tonight.