Broxton victim of another adventure
The Dodgers closer blows his first save of the season, but he's been shaky all year
MIAMI -- It is an indisputable fact that usually surehanded Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Jamey Carroll committed a two-out error in the ninth inning to allowed the tying run. It is an indisputable fact that rookie left fielder Jerry Sands badly misjudged a fly ball that wound up going over his head, resulting in the winning run crossing the plate. And it is undeniable that Jonathan Broxton's first official blown save of the season came as a direct result of those two defensive failures, the first of which would have ended the game if the play had been made and the second of which would have at least sent it to extra innings.
So often, though, it is the nuances that tell the real story of these games. And for the Dodgers, the most prominent quirk to Monday night's game, a 5-4 loss to the Florida Marlins before 11,633 at Sun Life Stadium, was on Broxton.
The Marlins' game-winning, three-run, ninth-inning rally, after all, began when Broxton walked Emilio Bonifacio with two outs and nobody on. This is the same Bonifacio who to that point had one walk in 36 plate appearances from the left side of the plate this season. This is the same Bonifacio who came to the plate with Hanley Ramirez, arguably the most dangerous hitter on the Marlins' roster even when he is a slump as he is now, waiting in the on-deck circle to pinch hit.
By now, you know the way it all turned out, and you know the real, underlying reason why. To his credit, Broxton knew that reason, too, as evidenced by the first words out of his mouth when approached by reporters after the game.
"Two-out walks will kill you every time," he said. "I just have to get him out. I can't let him get on. I know he has speed. Hanley came up there and did his job. You have to pitch carefully to him, and he just shot one the other way."
Thanks to Carroll's official error and Sands' unofficial one -- the ball Omar Infante hit just over Sands' outstretched glove to end the game was ruled a long single -- both of the runs charged to Broxton were unearned. But that doesn't mean he didn't earn them.
"[Fielders] are going to make mistakes," Broxton said. "I made a two-out mistake walking a guy. You can't just point at one thing."
The question now is whether manager Don Mattingly will be making a mistake by continuing to use Broxton in the closer's role. While it is true he converted each of his first five save opportunities and that it took Carroll's error for him to actually blow one, it is just as true that Broxton has been far more adventurous than an All-Star closer has a right to be.
Dating to the second half of last season, the Dodgers seem to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory far more than most teams, and that isn't supposed to happen very often if you have a reliable closer. This marked the second time in their past three games the Dodgers have lost after taking a two-run lead into the bottom of the eighth. It also was the second time in the past five games in which they have had a lead with two outs and nobody on in the ninth and failed to hold it, although they did manage to eventually beat the Atlanta Braves last Thursday on Matt Kemp's walkoff homer in the 12th.
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In fairness to Broxton (1-1), neither of those previous two games got away on his watch. But it also is worth noting that of those five saves -- all of which came in the Dodgers' first eight games of the season -- only one was a one-two-three inning. In the other four, each of which began with at least a two-run lead, the potential tying run either came to the plate or reached base every time.
"It seems like it's always adventurous in the ninth," Mattingly said, meaning for any closer, not just Broxton. "And again, he had a great chance to get out of that. The Bonifacio walk is the one that really kind of set them up and flipped their order over. That ground ball was probably a tough play, but [Carroll] is the guy we really want the ball hit to. You always want the ball going to Jamey. [Broxton] really, in a sense, did his job there."
Carroll was the first to admit that he hadn't done his -- "I just went hard after it, and I just missed it," he said -- but who knows what would have happened if it had been Bonifacio, with two outs and the bases empty, who had swung at a ball in the strike zone and rolled it over to Carroll? Maybe then, the Dodgers (12-12) wouldn't be licking their wounds yet again over yet another game that got away in the late innings.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.