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Brewers can't hold lead in ninth against Blue Jays

Brewers can't hold lead in ninth against Blue Jays

MILWAUKEE -- Perhaps there's a lesson in here somewhere for young Jameson Aedan Axford, who was born a few hours before his dad had another very tough night at the office.

Brewers closer John Axford went from a maternity ward to the pitcher's mound on Tuesday and suffered his third blown save in five chances, allowing back-to-back home runs in the ninth inning to finally settle a wild, 10-9 Brewers loss to the Blue Jays at Miller Park.

Manager Ron Roenicke had given Axford permission to take the day off, but the closer instead arrived in the middle innings, after ensuring that wife Nicole and his newborn son, born at 2:37 p.m. CT, were healthy and well. If there was something to be learned about perseverance or priorities, about commitment to craft, it would have to wait.

Dad was not in the mood.

"Bittersweet, I guess," said Axford of his eventful day. "Obviously, I came here for a reason, which was to do my job. This is my family away from my family at home, and I still have a job to do. If I was sitting in the hospital watching the game, and the same thing happened to somebody else that happened to me in the ninth, I would have felt even worse than I do right now.

"It's my job -- for now, anyways. I'm supposed to be out there in that inning, in that situation."

Aramis Ramirez's 10th career grand slam had given the Brewers a lead that stood at 9-8 entering the ninth, when Axford was set to face the same trio of hitters -- Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion -- who had combined for back-to-back-to-back home runs back in the sixth inning to spoil Tyler Thornburg's first Major League start.

They didn't repeat the feat in the ninth, but came close. Rasmus hit a 3-and-1 fastball down the right-field line for a game-tying home run, and Bautista hit another 3-and-1 fastball for another homer to right that gave the Blue Jays the lead.

The Blue Jays won in Milwaukee for the first time since 1996, snapping an 11-game losing streak in this city that spanned two stadiums, the Brewers' move from the American League to the National and the introduction of Interleague Play.

Axford now has four blown saves this season, twice as many as he had while setting a franchise record with 46 saves in 2011.

"I've thrown him a lot, and we need to right now," Roenicke said. "We've been throwing everyone a lot. I know it's a tough day for him, being at the hospital all day and then coming over here, trying to regroup mentally as much as anything."

Asked whether there would be conversations about the closer's role, Roenicke said, "Right now, he's the guy. We haven't really made a decision there, where we would think about changing that. It was nice to see Frankie [Rodriguez, Axford's setup man] have a good inning today."

Roenicke deftly shifted the conversation toward the earlier innings and Thornburg, the 23-year-old making his Major League debut for Milwaukee on a night he was supposed to be in Knoxville, Tenn., pitching in the Double-A Southern League's All-Star Game.

Instead, he was needed to pitch in place of the injured Shaun Marcum, and for five innings, Thornburg looked the part. Entering the sixth, he had allowed four Toronto hits including one that hurt -- Brett Lawrie's two-run homer in the third inning. But Thornburg had a lead thanks to a four-run rally that he sparked with a double.

That was in the bottom of the third inning, when Thornburg scored on another double by Carlos Gomez, then watched the Blue Jays give the Brewers a lead. Toronto starter Jesse Chavez threw a whopping 48 pitches in the inning and recorded only two outs. He put five consecutive batters on base with four walks and a hit by pitch -- two of the walks and the hit batsman (Corey Hart) with the bases loaded.

But Thornburg, who was 8-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 13 starts at Huntsville and surrendered only six home runs in 75 innings, lost the lead in the sixth. Rasmus, Bautista and Encarnacion each saw fastballs they liked and pounded them, combining for 1,247 feet of airtime and the Blue Jays' first back-to-back-to-back home runs since 2005.

"It looked like he ran out of gas," Roenicke said. "His velocity wasn't as good. We were hoping he could get us through the sixth inning. But we didn't have anybody else who could stop them, either. Bad day of pitching."

Tim Dillard allowed a run in the sixth inning before the Brewers answered with five runs on their own, one on yet another bases-loaded walk -- to Ryan Braun, this time -- and four on Ramirez's slam.

Back came the Blue Jays again. Manny Parra surrendered two more in the seventh to make it 9-8 before Axford lost the lead in the ninth.

"We never let down," Toronto manager Jon Farrell said. "We never battled our way out of the game, we battled ourselves back into it."

Thornburg wound up with a no-decision and an unclear next step. He was bound for Triple-A Nashville before his sudden call to Milwaukee.

If this was his only big league start for now, a crowd of 36,334 left a lasting memory. The fans gave Thornburg a standing ovation as he exited, having just surrendered three consecutive home runs and the lead.

"I wasn't in the greatest mood, and then walking off I heard the ovation," Thornburg said. "I kind of shook my head. It really was a great feeling."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy.
Read More: Milwaukee Brewers, John Axford, Aramis Ramirez, Francisco Rodriguez, Tyler Thornburg