PHILADELPHIA -- Part of being a closer, the most mentally taxing job in baseball and perhaps all of sports, is knowing that eventually it will be your turn to fail. Sooner or later, a ball is hit where they ain't, or an outfielder loses a ball in the lights, or a hitter who knew exactly what you were about to do rips a game-winning double into the gap, and then you lose.
There have been times this month when Broxton has looked something close to unhittable, armed as he is with an often overpowering fastball that regularly reaches triple digits on the radar gun. But this postseason has been open season on closers, and in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, the grim reaper came for Broxton, the Dodgers hulking and husky closer with the live arm and, he and his teammates hope, a short memory. But even though five of his fellow firemen have had a similar sensation in these playoffs, none of the previous blown saves came with quite the sense of ownership that Broxton must feel for the Dodgers' 5-4 loss to the Phillies.
Just one out from tying the NLCS at two games apiece and ensuring that it would head back to Los Angeles, Broxton walked one batter (pinch-hitter
The Dodgers will now need to win three consecutive games, starting with Wednesday's Game 5, and to do so, they will almost certainly at some point need to entrust a game to Broxton again. That is more than can be said for
The Dodgers may soon be home as well, and once again a blown save is a primary culprit. Afterward, a somber-voiced Broxton gave barely audible one-word answers about whether the long top of the ninth had any impact on him in the bottom half ("No.") if Dodgers manager Joe Torre had anything to say to him when the game ended ("No.") and whether he had paid much attention to the struggles of the other closers over the past two weeks ("No.").
Broxton promised he would be able to bounce back, but if there's anyone in the Dodgers clubhouse who knows just how difficult that can be, it's the man who was pulling on cowboy boots just one locker over from Broxton.
Broxton has more than two blown saves on his resume this year, six in fact, ranking a mediocre 18th in the majors and eighth in the National League in save percentage. For all the talk about a short memory, it was a long memory that may have started his struggles Monday. With one out, the Phillies sent Stairs up to pinch-hit, the same Stairs who had launched a mammoth home run off Broxton in Game 4 of last year's NLCS to win the game for the Phillies and put them up 3-1 in the series.
Broxton made a conscious effort to keep the ball down, lest he allow another momentum-shifting home run. Instead, he walked Stairs. Then he got too careful pitching to the suddenly red-hot Ruiz, who is batting .500 in this series, and hit him to put the winning run on base.
After getting pinch-hitter
He got a lot more, and by the time Rollins was on the ground just outside third base, lying in the fetal position and trying to dish out as much punishment to his teammates as he was getting -- "whoever got hit, got hit," Rollins said -- Broxton had already disappeared into the dugout.
Now the only surprise would be if Broxton and the Dodgers are able to rebound from such a crippling defeat and win the series. Only two National League teams have ever overcome a 3-games-to-1 deficit in the NLCS.