Axford finds relief in first save since 2012
OAKLAND -- John Axford was not going to worry too much about the details. In his first appearance with the Indians, the closer nailed down a save and sealed a win. Whatever else appeared on his pitching line did not matter.
"It definitely could've gone better," Axford said with a smirk. "But, it still worked out, right? No runs and we ended up with the win. So, it was perfect."
Axford's ninth-inning showing, which put the finishing touch on Cleveland's 2-0 victory on Opening Day, also served as a kind of milestone for the closer. It represented Axford's first save in the Major Leagues since Oct. 2, 2012, when he was with the Brewers. Last year, the right-hander went 0-for-7 in save opportunities.
Axford kept the ball from the final out as a memento.
The outing also marked the first time in Axford's big league career that he did not allow a run in his first appearance of a season. He issued two walks to go along with two strikeouts in the ninth inning, but Axford allowed no runs. In the previous five years, he posted a combined 18.69 ERA (nine runs in 4 1/3 innings) in his first games of the season.
"It was better than any year I've ever had," Axford said. "I've never started the season without an ERA before. I've gone anywhere from a 9.00 to a 54.00. Luckily, it turned out much better this time."
The Indians can only hope that it is the start of a solid season for Axford, who signed a one-year deal worth $4.5 million with the club over the winter to serve as its new stopper. Axford replaced former closer Chris Perez, who brought plenty of drama to the ninth inning over the past few years.
Axford said he felt like there were only a few kinks to get ironed out from Monday's outing.
"My focus was pretty good out there," Axford said. "I felt pretty calm and collected out there in the 'pen the whole time, too. Whatever nerves could've or shoul've been there, they weren't there at all. It was just a matter of focusing on a couple extra pitches there. There were a couple pitches that were close, borderline.
"Just bring them up a little bit or move them in a little bit more toward the plate and they're strikes. There were some quality pitches that guys didn't swing at as well. If those turn around, obviously, we'll have some less pitches and two less walks maybe. But I felt good. I felt great."