Axford moves into fourth with 48th straight save
Brewers closer escapes no-out jam to break tie with Lidge
ST. LOUIS -- John Axford's streak is still intact. Somehow.
The Brewers' closer had runners on first and third with no outs on Sunday but was able to close out a 3-2 victory over the Cardinals for his fifth save of the season and 48th consecutive regular-season save.
That is the fourth-longest streak in Major League history. He had been tied with Brad Lidge at 47. Only Eric Gagne (84), Tom Gordon (54) and Jose Valverde (51) have converted more consecutive saves.
"For me, it's more about the wins than anything else," Axford said. "The streak is great and everything, but more on the team side, I think. If not for the eight innings before that, I'm not going to be in the game, and obviously if I don't get a save we're not going to get the win unless it goes into extras. I'd rather lock it down and get the win for the team."
It took a strange twist for Axford to pull out Sunday's win. With runners on first and third, Axford struck out David Freese and Yadier Molina. Carlos Beltran broke for second base on Molina's strikeout and catcher Jonathan Lucroy threw down to second. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez cut off Lucroy's throw and threw home in time to nab pinch-runner Tyler Greene at home plate.
"I remember one time at Miller Park," Axford said, "where I started off with a leadoff triple and we had a one-run lead and luckily, somehow, we got out of that with good defense behind me making some plays and keeping him at third base. You really just have to trust your stuff at that point and count on a little luck at that time, too."
Perseverance pays as Chulk returns to bigs
ST. LOUIS -- This is what Vinnie Chulk has wanted and worked for.
The Brewers purchased the contract of the 33-year-old right-hander on Sunday because manager Ron Roenicke said they needed a fresh arm. Chulk, who last pitched in the Major Leagues in 2009 with Cleveland, needed a fresh start.
"It's been a long time coming," he said. "It feels good. I got the call yesterday morning and I was pretty excited. Really unexpected, but at the same time that's why I'm still playing. I didn't want to play in Triple-A anymore. I finally got the call back, and now I just have to perform."
Drafted by Toronto in the 12th round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, Chulk pitched for the Blue Jays for parts of four seasons before being traded to San Francisco in 2006. He signed with Cleveland in 2009 and appeared in eight games.
He signed with Pittsburgh before the 2010 season but was released in late July and pitched in Japan with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in 2010. Chulk signed with Oakland before the 2011 campaign but, like in Pittsburgh, didn't make it back to the Majors with the A's.
"I was with one team for a while with Toronto," Chulk said. "Then when I got traded I started a new thing in San Francisco. But after that it's been team to team to team. So it's been a pretty crazy ride. My wife has been behind me 100 percent and following me. It's good for her to be able to at least know it was all for a good reason."
It has been a wild ride, for sure.
"It's been a grind, to say the least, but at the same time I'm playing a game for a living, regardless if it's in Triple-A," he said. "I have a good time playing and can take care of my family while doing so. I had a little stint in Japan, which was pretty cool, but ultimately I always wanted to come back to the big leagues and to get this call is pretty awesome."
Roenicke will take advantage of Chulk's fresh arm and experience.
"I think it's always nice when a guy battles and he keeps at it," Roenicke said. "We always talk about the perseverance that some players have, and when it turns out well I think it's a neat thing."
Brewers rest Gamel, start Ishikawa in finale
ST. LOUIS -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke made a switch in the lineup at first base for Sunday's series finale at Busch Stadium.
Roenicke opted to give Mat Gamel a day off and replaced him with Travis Ishikawa.
"I don't know if the shoulder is bothering [Gamel] other than I know it's still sore," Roenicke said. "I don't know if it affects his swing. He says he's fine, which I'm sure he is. Probably if he would have been swinging great the last couple of days he'd be back in there. It's just my observation that maybe a day would help him."
Gamel, who has a sore shoulder from a home-plate collision on Monday, was hitless in eight at-bats in the first two games in St. Louis and committed a costly error in Saturday's 7-3 loss.
The left-handed Ishikawa, who made his fourth start of the season at first base, performed well in two games earlier in the week while filling in for Gamel.
He went 1-for-4 with a two-run home run in the 9-6 win over the Astros on Tuesday, then went 1-for-3 with a solo home run in a 7-5 loss on Wednesday.
"The last time I started him against a lefty like I'm doing today, he had a nice game," Roenicke said of Wednesday's start against Houston's J.A. Happ. "It's not ideal. It would be ideal if he was right-handed. But in his two starts he's had two nice games. We know he's going to play good defense. He's a nice guy to be able to put in there."
Aramis Ramirez extended his hitting streak to six games on Saturday with his two hits, including a fourth-inning home run to center field. Ramirez is hitting .409 (9-for-22) during the streak with four doubles, one home run and three RBIs. He is hitting .361 (13-for-36) in his past 10 games to raise his average for the season to .227.
The Brewers continue to lead the National League with their 29 home runs, but after losing on Saturday, the team is 9-7 when homering and 0-5 when not.
Triple-A Nashville snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 3-0 win at Iowa. Michael Fiers tossed six shutout innings and allowed just three hits. Reliever Juan Perez, who earned the win, struck out three and walked two in two innings. Amaury Rivas earned his first save with a scoreless inning. Brooks Conrad had two of the Sounds' seven hits with a double and a triple.
Double-A Huntsville won its third straight game, 2-1, in 10 innings on Saturday at Mississippi. Jesus Sanchez (2-0) earned the win with three scoreless innings in relief. Robert Wooten picked up his fifth save with a scoreless 10th inning.
Nate Latsch is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.