It is a wonderous thing when you first see the elephant.
Closers come in all sizes and shapes, with varying arm angles, different breaking balls and fastballs that bear in on the hitter with different speeds. Sometimes they are failed starters, other times they were extremely competent in the starting role but more valuable out of the bullpen.
But the common talent possessed by all successful stoppers is the ability to not only function but function at the highest level under the most intense pressure.
Derek Lowe's sinker was performing remarkable things over the first six innings, retiring the first 12 in order and working past an error to retire six more and entering the last of the seventh with a 5-0 lead and a no-hitter.
Bob Gibson pitched a no-hitter for St. Louis on Aug. 14, 1971 at Three Rivers Stadium (1970-2000). There never was a no-hitter pitched at spacious Forbes Field (1909-1970).
Ground outs accounted for 11 of the first 18 and with five strikeouts added to the total, the Pirates seemed at his mercy. Writers were scrambling around to confirm that their had only been one visiting pitcher to craft a no-hitter in Pittsburgh in the 121-year history of the club.
He lost a potential perfect game when Tony Abreu threw wildly on the first play of the fifth inning, but a double play and another bouncer to Abreu ended the inning.
After a 1-2-3 sixth, things started to crumble just a bit. a leadoff walk and the first hit of the game, a single to center, and a force play gave the Pirates their first run. Another force play and a two-run homer by Xavier Nady made a game out of it on the first ball hit into the air since the opening out of the game.
Russell Martin's sixth homer made it 6-3 but Lowe needed Joe Beimel to get out of the eighth after allowing home run to Jose Bastista and the Dodgers called Broxton out of the bullpen and and sent him out in the last of the ninth.
Certainly the batter looked like Babe Ruth and the strike zone looked like a match cover. He had three saves last year but that was different, there was someone to back him up.
This one was all his.
Freddy Sanchez (not Babe Ruth) flared one of Broxton's fastballs into short right field for a single. After Jason Bay hit into a force play at second, Adam LaRoche smacked a shot into left center that hooked away from Juan Pierre for a double, scoring Sanchez.
Now the fat was in the fire and despite hitting the magic 100 number on the speed gun throughout much of the inning, another flare would tie the game.
Russell Martin came out to visit. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt came out for a short chat and second baseman Jeff Kent dropped by with a little advice for the young pitcher.
But in the end, it was all up to him.
Despite a walk to Nady, he got pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit on another force play, leaving runners at first and third, then Jack Wilson, expecting the big fastball, bounced a slider weekly to Kent for the final out.
The nervous squirming in the dugout ceased and the young man will never have to go through another 'first' baptisms by fire Thoughts of going into the Padres series after your young stopper had blown his first save attempt of the season passed from everyone's mind.
In a very brief interview with the Pittsburgh television crew after the game, Broxton admitted he was perhaps too pumped up but that it was all in a day's work -- in about that many words. The interviewer, seeing he was to get no help, thanked him and cut it short.
Lowe was remarkable through 6.2 innings and with the bullpen stretched to the maximum added to the loss of Yhency Brazoban and Saito, he was allowed to pitch one bridge too far.
Jeff Kent slugged a double in the first inning that scored Pierre after the little speedster had beaten out a bunt. Rafael Furcal singled, advanced on Pierre's bunt and an error by LaRoche at first, and scored on Nomar Garciaparra's grounder.
Martin singled in the seventh, Andre Ethier walked and with one out, Brady Clark, filling in for Luis Gonzalez in left field, singled in a third run.
Furcal followed with a two-run double and the game seemed in the bag, but in all the movies there must be a late crisis to overcome and so it was the Broxton finishing the job although it took 23 pitches. The kid, just two weeks short of turning 23, is now 22 going on 28.
The Dodgers (34-23) left town with three wins in four games and five in their seven-game road trip. With a half-game lead over San Diego and Arizona in the National League West they begin a crucial, three-game showdown tonight at Petco Park.
Jason Schmidt (1-2, 7.36) returns after seven weeks on the disabled list to start today night against the Padres and Chris Young (6-3, 2.42) in San Diego.
Score by innings Los Angeles 100 001 310-6 Pittsburgh 000 000 311-5 Los Angeles ab r h bi ave Furcal ss 4 1 2 2 .303 Pierre cf 3 1 1 0 .274 Garciaparra 1b 4 0 0 1 .281 Kent 2b 4 0 1 1 .259 Martin c 4 2 2 1 .314 Ethier rf 3 1 1 0 .277 Abreu 3b 4 0 0 0 .342 Clark lf 4 1 2 1 .245 Lowe p 1 0 0 0 .189 Beimel 0 0 0 0 .000 Betemit ph 1 0 0 0 .189 Broxton p 0 0 0 0 .000 Totals 34 6 9 6 Pittsburgh 35 5 5 5 Errors- Abreu (2), Furcal (9). 2B- Kent (15). HR- Martin (7). RBI- Kent (32), Garciaparra (34), Clark (5), Furcal 2 (20), Martin (39). S- Pierre. LOB- Los Angeles 3, Pittsburgh 3. DP- Kent, Furcal and Garciaparra. Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era Lowe (6-5) 4.2 3 4-4 1 6 3.44 Beimel 0.1 0 0-0 0 0 3.60 Broxton (sv 1) 1.0 2 1-1 0 0 3.00 T- 2:28. Att- 15,846.Saito Will Not Be Disabled-- Closer Takashi Saito's strained left hamstring was not determined to be not as serious as thought and he may be able to return in a few days although he will probably miss the San Diego series. Saito left Sunday's game in the middle of the inning when he felt the hamstring tighten. He took ice and electric stimulation treatments Monday and did not have an MRI because there are no signs of a muscle tear. ...Yhency Brazoban and Chin-hui Tsao will return to Los Angeles to have their injured shoulders examined at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic. Brazoban was injured last week in Washington and disabled. Tsao was injured on the last homestand and tried to play catch last week, but was still in pain. Tsao had shoulder problems the past three years and underwent rotator cuff and labrum surgery in 2006. ...The Dodgers left town with a 20-6 record in PNC Park and are 14-5 in games started by opposing left-handers. ...With catcher Kelly Stinett retiring, then un-retiring and signing with St. Louis, the Dodgers have only one veteran catcher at Las Vegas, Ken Huckaby. The search is on for another experienced catcher to share the duties at Vegas and provide some insurance in case of an injury to either Martin or Mike Leiberthal.