10/20/09 2:00 AM EST
Game 4 remains unkind to Broxton
Dodgers closer hit hard in NLCS for second straight year
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Broxton, the National League's most overwhelming ninth-inning reliever in 2009, suffered déjà vu on Monday night, surrendering a huge hit in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, just as he did a year earlier. This time, though, it was a game-ending hit, and this time it was Rollins delivering the blow in a staggering 5-4 Dodgers loss to the Phillies. Los Angeles now trails, 3-1, in the series and must win three straight to advance to the World Series.
A year earlier, Stairs hit a pivotal homer in Game 4 of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium. Perhaps with that in mind, Broxton elected to pitch the 41-year-old pinch-hitter carefully before coming right at Rollins. Neither decision paid off. A Dodgers team that went 78-3 when leading after eight innings in the regular season took the loss as a result.
"They've got a great lineup," Broxton said. "They've got some good swingers there in the middle that can put good wood on it. But it's just one of those days."
Rollins beat Broxton on a 99-mph fastball, and if it looked like he knew it was coming, that's because he did. He drilled it for a two-run, game-ending double that sent Citizens Bank Park into absolute bedlam. He hadn't had much success against Broxton in the past, but this time the right-hander made a mistake.
"I just said that I'm going to sit on his pitch, a fastball [inside], sit there and catch it," Rollins said. "Really just looking for a single up the middle to tie the ballgame, but I was able to get more. Sometimes the pitcher makes a mistake. Catcher is set up away, you're looking in, he throws a ball by mistake in, and it's like, 'How were you looking for that pitch?' Well, he made a mistake because if he hits the spot, I don't get that hit. This time he threw it right where I was looking and I got the result I wanted."
An inning earlier, Broxton had looked like the hero. After George Sherrill got into trouble with a walk and a hit batter in the eighth, Broxton got Jayson Werth to fly out, stranding the tying and go-ahead runs on base. The Dodgers threatened in a lengthy top of the eighth, but didn't score, but Broxton still had a perfect setup for the ninth.
He was facing the 6-7-8 positions in the Philadelphia order with a lead and only three outs to get. If he did what he had done so many times all year, the series would have been tied.
It started out just fine. He induced a grounder to second base from the man who looked like the most dangerous hitter who would bat in the inning, outfielder Raul Ibanez. But Phillies manager Charlie Manuel summoned Stairs, who became a folk hero in Philadelphia with his 2008 home run, and Broxton pitched like a man who remembered that hit all too well.
He pitched around Stairs, missing with four straight fastballs out of the zone. Stairs hit .194 this year, but he continued to show the fine batting eye he's always had. He's exactly the kind of hitter who is unlikely to chase a pitcher's pitch, and he didn't. He walked, setting the winning rally in motion.
"I just wasn't going to give him one over the middle," Broxton said. "I was going to keep it down and try to get him to chase."
It proved to be the first of two mistakes leading up to the game-winning hit. He then hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch, putting the winning run on base, before pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs hit a soft liner for out No. 2. Still, because the Phillies got two runners on, they were able to turn their lineup over and get back to Rollins -- a dangerous and aggressive hitter even in a down year.
Facing the former MVP, Broxton abandoned the caution he had shown against Stairs. He started Rollins off with a fastball on the inside corner, a well-placed and tough pitch. He missed away with a fastball, and then left one over the middle of the plate. Rollins jumped on it, lining it into the gap in right-center for the game-ender.
"I just wanted to stay aggressive," Broxton said. "Try to make him beat me with my best pitch."
He did, and now the Dodgers trail by two games in the series.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.