Rockies take John Axford out of the closer’s role

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Rockies reliever John Axford has hit the skids as of late, allowing runs in five consecutive appearances with four blown saves. He’s forked over eight runs on eight hits and eight walks with four strikeouts. As Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post details, manager Walt Weiss has removed Axford from the closer’s role.

Weiss didn’t name a successor, but mentioned that Rafael Betancourt, Tommy Kahnle, and Justin Miller as candidates to handle save situations.

“We have a few different options down there, so it will probably come down match-ups and who is available,” Weiss said. “So there will be a few different guys throwing at the end.”

Overall this season, the 32-year-old Axford has a 4.45 ERA with a 29/19 K/BB ratio in 30 1/3 innings. He wasn’t expected to handle closing duties at the start of the season, but Betancourt struggled and Adam Ottavino underwent Tommy John surgery.

Gerrit Cole second-fastest to 200 strikeouts in a season

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Astros starter Gerrit Cole dominated the Athletics on Monday night, limiting them to one run on two hits and a walk while striking out 11. It marked his 12th start out of 22 this season with double-digit strikeouts, giving him 205 total on the season.

It is no surprise, then, to hear that Cole is the second-fastest in baseball history to reach 200 strikeouts in a season, per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Cole got there in 133 1/3 innings. The only pitcher faster than Cole was Randy Johnson, who reached 200 K’s in 130 2/3 innings back in 2001 with the Diamondbacks.

Along with the 205 strikeouts, Cole holds an 11-5 record with a 3.03 ERA across 136 2/3 innings. Among qualified starters in the American League, only Charlie Morton (2.61), Mike Minor (2.86), José Berríos (2.96), and teammate Justin Verlander (2.99) have a better ERA than Cole, who has twice finished in the top-five in Cy Young Award voting.