Sammy Saito's Swan Song?

Takashi "Sammy" Saito's mechanical problems, coupled with an elbow injury that has kept him out of action for weeks has been multiplied by the surge of confidence shown by Jonathan Broxton in the final month of the season. Saito will also be eligible for arbitration next season. All these could indicate we have probably seen the last of this remarkable Japanese pitcher

. Broxton was as close to perfect as a closer gets during the final month of the season. Appearing in 12 games, he allowed a single run while recording four saves and a microscopic 0.79 earned run average. Then he didn't allow a run while working in all three games of the Cubs series.

Over the season, he recorded 14 saves in 16 opportunities after taking over for the injured Saito on July 18. He limited opposing batter to a .217 average and held righthanders to a .181 mark. The Dodgers were 47-23 in the games he appeared in.

The 24-year-old with the ability to bring the ball to the plate at speeds of up to 101 mph struck out 88 in 69 innings or 11.48 per nine innings pitched, the sixth best mark in the National League.

Saito, who finished the season with a career record of 81 saves in 91 opportunities since he signed in 2006 (an 89% success rate, fifth highest in baseball since the save became official in 1969). He could receive $2 million in 2009 through arbitration, will be 39 next season, and the fact he spent most of the second half on the disabled list with the elbow injury means his health has become a concern for the first time.

It is conceivable the Dodgers could simply cut ties with him, go forward with Broxton as their closer and find another setup man, perhaps Cory Wade.

For the time being, Saito will remain with the club and continue to throw in the bullpen as sort of a substitute for a minor league rehabilitation assignment. But if the series goes long, he might join the Dodgers' Arizona Instructional League program in Peoria long enough to make at least one game appearance and could be activated for the World Series, if the Dodgers get there.

Notes
--LF Manny Ramirez has driven in at least one run in five consecutive League Championship Series games and seven of his past eight, a stretch during which he has knocked in a total of 11 runs. He has now his safely in 17 of his past 18 LCS games, a stretch during which he is batting .333 (23-for-69). Ramirez went 2-for-4 with an RBI double Thursday in Game 1 against the Phillies.

--LHP Hong-Chih Kuo, who hadn't pitched since Sept. 14 because of elbow problems, was added to the roster for this NL Championship Series after sitting out the first round. He pitched a perfect eighth inning, keeping the Dodgers' deficit at a single run. Kuo won't be allowed to warm up more than once in any game, won't be used for more than an inning in any outing and won't be used on back-to-back days, meaning he won't be available today.

--1B James Loney singled to lead off the sixth inning, extending his hitting streak at Citizens Bank Park to 11 games. He also has at least one hit in all five of his career postseason games, batting .333 (7-for-21). He is now batting .395 (17-for-43) for his career at Citizens Bank Park.

--RHP Derek Lowe's loss was his first in a postseason start since Game 5 of the 2003 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees when he was with Boston. Over his past 12 starts this year, regular season and postseason, he is 7-2 with a 1.55 ERA. Before Thursday's game, he hadn't lost to the Phillies since 2001.

--RHP Chan Ho Park pitched for the first time since the regular-season finale on Sept. 28. Park had given up seven earned runs in a total of two innings in his final four regular-season appearances. But in Game 1 against Philadelphia, he retired both batters he faced after relieving RHP Derek Lowe in the sixth inning.

By the Numb3rs 257 -- Batters RHP Derek Lowe had faced while giving up his previous two home runs, to St. Louis' Ryan Ludwick on Aug. 6 and Washington's Lastings Milledge on Aug. 26, before giving up two of them in a span of three batters in the sixth inning. Lowe had made 11 starts, including in the division series, since giving up Ludwick's shot. Lowe has now gone 11 consecutive starts without giving up more than two earned runs and has a 1.40 ERA over that time.

Quote to Note
"I told (Phillies second baseman Chase Utley) it would have been a home run in Los Angeles. But we weren't in Los Angeles." -- LF Manny Ramirez on his RBI double to left-center in the first inning, a ball that hit a foot below the top of the fence at both the deepest and highest part of the outfield wall and a foot to the left of the vertical yellow stripe differentiating a ball in play from a homer into the foliage in center. "I'm going to have to work on my angle," he said.

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