Brewers 2, Cardinals 3

MILWAUKEE, WI - JULY 16: Mike Fiers #64 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches against the St Louis Cardinals during the game at Miller Park on July 16, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Win: Jason Motte (4-3)
Loss: John Axford (2-6)

HR: Corey Hart (17)

MVP: Mike Fiers (+.436 WPA pitching, -.071 WPA hitting)
LVP: John Axford (-.765 WPA)

Fangraphs Win Expectancy Graph

Another save opportunity, another blown for John Axford - his sixth.

A leadoff walk, two long fly balls, a single that Aramis Ramirez knocked down but had no chance to make a play on, a walk to load the bases and a two-run single to Matt Holliday tied the game. An RBI, game-winning single to Allen Craig was all she wrote on a night in which Axford was incapable of throwing a breaking ball for a strike. He was mercifully removed after 36 pitches (only 18 of which were strikes), but the damage was done.

Not sure if this actually means anything, but Axe seems to be missing the "killer instinct." He was one strike away from the save against Furcal, Schumaker, Holliday and Craig, but was unable to seal the deal. Inability to trust his curve for a strike is killing him. Only one closer has ever been able to get by with only one pitch and Mariano Rivera Axford ain't.

The blown save stole the win from Mike Fiers, who pitched beautifully. He's allowed just two runs over his last 32 2/3 innings. He has 0.7 ERA over his last five starts spanning 34.2 innings (3 ER, 11BB and 35K) - his season ERA is 2.01. Tonight he went seven deep with 112 pitches, giving up four hits and four walks while striking out four.

If this is the most important nine games of the season, the Brewers really missed an opportunity to close the gap - something they've struggled with all season.

On May 13 the Brewers lost to fall to 15-19. They haven't been within three games of .500 since.

They were 4 games under .500 after games on May 13, June 8, June 10, June 22, July 3, July 13 and now July 15. They've gone 0-7 the next day.

Cincinnati lost. The Pirates were down three runs in the seventh as of this writing. A Brewers win would have gained them ground on all the teams in front of them. Instead - this.

Corey Hart's seventh inning home run was the difference in the game until Axford struck in the ninth. Lynn struck out ten batters while giving up six hits and Hart made him pay on one of his few mistakes.

Cards closer Jason Motte had nine days off and showed some rust in the eighth as he gave up a deep double to Ryan Braun, who drove in Nori Aoki from first (he had walked) for the Brewers second run. For those keeping track, it was career hit number 998 for Braun.

Carlos Gomez made two spectacular catches in the first inning and K-Rod pitched a clean eighth. Kam Loe got the final out in the ninth that Axford couldn't muster.

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