10/20/09 6:21 PM EST
Torre won't hesitate to call on Broxton
LA manager confident in closer, but 'pen options also scarce
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
"Last night was last night," Broxton said before Tuesday's workout, having suffered the blown save and possibly the blown series in the Dodgers' 5-4 loss to the Phillies Monday night in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.
"It's over. It's done. You come back tomorrow."
And manager Joe Torre said if the situation presents itself, he'll be handing the ball to Broxton on Wednesday night to close out a win when another loss means elimination.
Torre said he spoke to Broxton twice, once Monday night after the loss and again before Tuesday's workout.
"He didn't say much," said Torre. "All I could say to him was, 'You're going to get the ball tomorrow night.' Enough said."
Tom Niedenfuer knows how Broxton must feel. He not only served up Jack Clark's infamous home run that eliminated the Dodgers in Game 6 of the 1985 NLCS, but also Ozzie Smith's walk-off blast in the bottom of the ninth of Game 5 that year.
"It's even worse when it's the last game of the season," said Niedenfuer, who would know. "The best thing that could happen is he goes out tomorrow and is dominating in a 1-2-3 save like he did all year. It's just too bad. Relief pitching in the playoffs, everyone focuses on it. But guys in the clubhouse and the manager know there are a lot of pivotal points in a game. Everything adds up.
"Dennis Eckersley [who served up Kirk Gibson's 1988 World Series walk-off homer] said it in the pregame show -- one pitch can ruin a whole year for a reliever. As successful as you are, you mess up at the wrong time and everything is magnified."
When it comes to postseason closers, Torre is the most spoiled manager in the game, having had Mariano Rivera for virtually his entire 12-year tenure in the Bronx. So Torre knows the highs, and now he knows the lows.
"In that role," he said, "there's no gray. Either you succeed or you fail. There's no in-between that you did alright. I think he's alright. The toughest part is, you don't know until he gets [the ball] again."
Broxton's ninth inning ended with Jimmy Rollins' two-run walk-off double. The real head-scratchers were what preceded it -- a four-pitch walk to a struggling Matt Stairs and a pitch that hit Carlos Ruiz when catcher Russell Martin was set up outside.
"It looked like he was trying to be too perfect, too careful with Stairs," said Torre, who conceded that Stairs' homer off Broxton in last year's NLCS was probably "in his memory bank."
"With his stuff," Torre said, "he shouldn't worry about anybody."
Then Broxton hit Ruiz.
"That was probably more than the Stairs walk, it certainly was something he could have done without," Torre said. "That one brought up the top of the order."
Sticking with Broxton is part confidence building, and part no realistic alternative. Although George Sherrill had a 0.65 ERA in 30 regular season appearances after his acquisition, he's still trying to work through a mechanical flaw that has resulted in his allowing eight baserunners in his last 2 1/3 playoff innings.
"That's his M.O.," said Torre. "He puts you on a tightrope. [Hitting coach Jeff] Pentland was with him in Seattle. He always does that but always gets the job done."
Sherrill got two outs in the eighth inning of Game 4, but also issued a walk and hit batter, forcing Torre to go to Broxton for a four-out save. He was 7-for-7 in those situations during the season.
"It's coming," Sherrill said of his mechanics, "but we're running out of time."
If there was one department coming into the series that the Dodgers seemed to have an advantage, it was relief pitching. The Dodgers finished the regular season with the lowest bullpen ERA (3.14) in the league and lowest opponents batting average (228), while the Phillies ranked ninth in ERA (3.91) and seventh in opponents average (.246).
And the Phillies have turned that into a big so-what.
"It's a different situation," Shane Victorino said of the postseason. "I'm not saying that you just flip a switch and I'll do better in the postseason, but I think preparing differently, being in the position we were in last year, helps the bullpen's confidence.
"Look at [closer Brad] Lidge. Everybody questioned him and questioned him. He's been absolutely what everybody expected him not to be. I expected him to do what he's done. That's why we brought him here. He's been great. Chan Ho [Park] was hurt and didn't pitch the last series, all of a sudden came out and shoved it."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.