John Axford labored a bit on Sunday to earn a 2-inning save against the Phillies, which means if there's a save situation for the Brewers in the next couple of days, we could see Trevor Hoffman become the first pitcher to reach 600 saves.
It's obviously been a disappointing season for Hoffman -- while I don't think many people expected him to be as good as he was last season, no one could have predicted him to struggle as badly as he did early this season. Finally, though, it appears that we're going to get this 600 save thing out of the way. And it appears it could happen against the Cardinals -- the team that "broke" him, so to speak.
It was only the second series of the season, but Hoffman's two blown saves against the Cardinals in April was the start of his -- and the team's -- struggles this season. People forget that Hoffman started the season well against the Colorado Rockies...so well that Baseball Tonight actually featured him badly fooling a good Rockies lineup and broke down one of his appearances pitch-by-pitch.
Then the Cardinals came to town. Nick Stavinoha back-legged a fluke go-ahead homer in the series opener, and Hoffman nearly blew another game on ESPN in the series finale (luckily, Casey McGehee saved him from the loss with a walkoff homer). It was the start of one of the worst months of Hoffman's career -- 9 innings, 15 hits, 13 runs (all earned), and 6 home runs allowed. May wasn't much better, as he allowed 6 earned runs in 7 innings and lost his job as the team's closer.
When you're a relief pitcher and you get off to a bad start, it takes forever to get your numbers back to normal. The ERA has been ugly all season, which is why people probably don't realize how good he was in June (only 3 ER in 8 IP) and July (3 ER in 9 IP). In those months, he's had stretches of 7 and 9 consecutive scoreless outings, and was on a streak of 5 consecutive scoreless outings in August before losing the extra-innings game in Cincinnati.
Is it a guarantee that Hoffman will hit 600 saves during this series with the Cardinals? Of course not. Save opportunities happen purely by chance, and the chances of them happening against a team that's clearly better than you are slim. But it'd definitely be a fitting opponent, and in a way, it would bring the season full circle.
I'll be rooting for it to happen -- will you?