KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Milwaukee Brewers spent eight innings scratching and clawing their way to a two-run lead, then put trusty closer John Axford on the mound to close out the Kansas City Royals.
Just the way they like to draw it up.
What wasn't in their plans were the two walks Axford issued to set up Alcides Escobar's tying two-out triple, or the two walks that the Milwaukee bullpen issued in the 11th inning — the last of the maddening string with the bases loaded, giving the Royals a 4-3 win Wednesday night.
"Somebody needs to step up and start throwing the ball," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Nobody out there is throwing the ball the way the need to be throwing it."
That's not entirely accurate.
Veteran left-hander Randy Wolf went seven innings in his best start of the year, turning over a 2-1 lead to the relief corps. Milwaukee even added a run in the ninth inning to provide a bigger cushion for Axford, who came into the game having saved 10 of his 11 chances.
He walked Eric Hosmer with one out and issued a free pass to Mike Moustakas with two outs before Escobar lined a triple into the gap in left to force extra innings.
"I got the save opportunity tonight, and I blew it," Axford said. "You work to get those opportunities, and you want to make the most of them. Hopefully I'll get another shot."
Billy Butler singled to lead off the 11th inning against Kameron Loe (2-2). Hosmer drew a walk before Jeff Francoeur ripped a single to left field, loading the bases when third base coach Eddie Rodriguez threw up the stop sign on Butler.
Moustakas needed only five pitches from Jose Veras for his free pass.
"You need to take it from the other team," Roenicke said. "That's a bad ballgame to lose right there. I have confidence in these guys, but they need to start doing it."
Tim Collins (3-0) worked around a walk of his own in the 11th to earn the win.
"We've been really focusing on our approach, a relaxed approach, and it showed," said Royals manager Ned Yost, whose team hadn't scored more than two runs in a victory this month.
Wolf had been miserable on the road coming into the game, going 1-2 with an 8.28 ERA in his five previous starts. But the 35-year-old veteran managed to keep the Royals off balance, giving up only six hits and two walks before leaving with a 2-1 lead.
Jonathan Sanchez was nearly as good in as return for Kansas City.
Sanchez went five effective innings in his first start off the disabled list, the left-hander showed no lingering effects of the biceps tendinitis that had kept him out since May 7. He allowed only one run, seven hits and two walks in an encouraging start.
"There was a number of things I was pleased with. I was very impressed with Sanchez," Yost said. "He threw the ball extremely well, and I thought he competed extremely well."
The run he allowed came in the third inning, when Edwin Maysonet reached on a dribbler toward third base. Milwaukee played small ball to perfection with consecutive bunt singles by Norichika Aoki and Carlos Gomez that loaded the bases for Aramis Ramirez, whose single tied the game.
The Brewers pulled ahead once Sanchez left on Ryan Braun's RBI single in the seventh inning, but despite their extra run in the ninth, their bullpen couldn't hang on.
"Our lineup is good enough that no one has to be the guy," Hosmer said. "If they're not pitching to you, let the next guy do it, and we did a good job of that tonight."
Notes: The Brewers stranded 13 runners on base. ... Maysonet stole his first career base in the seventh inning. ... RHP Luke Hochevar will pitch the series finale for Kansas City against Milwaukee RHP Shawn Marcum. ... Roenicke and Yost were both appointed coaches Wednesday for next month's All-Star game, which is being played at Kauffman Stadium. ... The Royals optioned RHP Louis Coleman to Triple-A Omaha before the game to clear roster space for Sanchez's return.