Game 4 Disaster Strikes Broxton Again

No one will ever know if it was the 18-minute wait for the top of the ninth to play out in the cold or if it was the specter of Matt Stairs and his series-changing 2008 home run in Game 4, but in an eery replay, Jonathan Broxton served up a two-out, two-run, game-winning double to Jimmy Rollins after walking Stairs that cut the heart out of the Dodgers chances.

In another cruel twist of fate, Los Angeles has a day off today to contemplate what might have been before they play the final game in Philadelphia, knowing they need to sweep the final three games.

Stairs hit a pivotal homer in Game 4 of the NLCS off Broxton and give the Phillies a 3-1 series lead. Apparently the Dodgers closer was reluctant to challenge the 41-year-old pinch-hitter with one out in the bottom of the ninth and the Dodgers leading 4-3.

Broxton missed with four blistering fastballs despite the fact that Stairs hit only .194 this year. "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."

He was asked how hard is it to come in cold to a game and lay off those pitches? "Not hard," Stairs said, "when they're by you.

"He's too good a closer to let anybody on-deck, anybody in the batter's box, to affect him," Stairs said. "He was throwing gas, just not throwing strikes."

Then Broxton hit Carlos Ruiz before striking out Greg Dobbs for the second out.

Hitting from 98 to 101 on the Philadelphia speed gun, he blistered the first pitch past Jimmy Rollins and then, two strikes away from tying the series, the shortstop ripped a long drive up the right-center field alley that rolled to the wall and both runners scored. "I just wanted to stay aggressive," Broxton said. "Try to make him beat me with my best pitch."

He did.

"I was just sitting on his pitch, an inside fastball, and catch it," Rollins said. "I was only looking for a single up the middle to tie the ballgame, but I was able to get more. Martin set up away and he made a mistake and came inside. 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."

Broxton had converted 36-of-42 save opportunities during the season. Seven times he was asked to get a four-out save, and he was 7-for-7 in those situations.

He had relieved George Sherrill in the eighth inning with runners at first and second and got Jayson Werth on a fly ball to right field. The Dodgers threatened in an 18-minute top of the eighth, but didn't score.

Had he retired the 6-7-8 positions in the Philadelphia order, the series would have been tied. Now the Dodgers have a real mountain to climb.

Starter Randy Wolf was one out away from picking up a win against his former team. Although he served up a two-run home run in the first inning to -- you guessed it -- Ryan Howard, he settled in and retired 14 of the next 15 Phillies he faced, working around a walk in the fifth inning.

In the meantime, Joe Blanton took a page out of Cliff Lee's book on pitching and retired the first 10 Dodgers before Matt Kemp drew a one-out walk in the fourth. Andrew Ethier crushed a shot that Shane Victorino caught in front of the 398 sign in center field for the second out but Manny Ramirez lashed a single to left, sending Kemp to third.

James Loney single in the first Dodgers run, Ron Belliard walked and Russell Martin's bases loaded single tied the game 2-2. Casey Blake bounced out to leave three runners on base.

Kemp drilled a long shot to center field, clearing the fence and Victorino, to put the Dodgers in the lead 3-2. Ramirez lived on an error in the sixth, Belliard dropped a single into center field and Blake looped another single to right to make it 4-2.

The home plate umpire kept both sides baffled with his calls during the game and when Blake broke for second on a 2-2 pitch to Wolf, Phillie catcher Carlos Ruiz was so certain it was a strike, he didn't throw to second base.

With runners at first and third, manager Joe Torre chose to let Wolf hit for himself and he flew harmlessly to center field. That turned out to be a mistake. A tiring Wolf served up a one-out triple to Victorino and an RBI single to Chase Utley to cut the lead to 4-3. Ryan Howard broke his bat and Blake dodged the splintered end and threw to second base for a force.

Ron Belliard dropped the ball attempting to make the easy double play but Hong-Chih Kuo came in and retired the side with one pitch, a line shot to left field that Ramirez made a nice running catch on.

Blake struck out with two out and two on in the eighth and Rafael Furcal singled, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch in the ninth. Kemp struck out for the 14th time in the post-season and Ethier ended the inning with another strikeout. Ethier had also ended the first, fifth and seventh innings.

The ninth inning took a long while and Broxton may have cooled off in the dugout waiting to finish the game. Unfortunately, that part of the equation will probably be forgotten but the ultimate result with linger for some time.

"We're going to show up here the day after tomorrow, there's no question," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "They'll be ready to play."

The series resumes Wednesday, the Dodgers sending the hot hand of Vicente Padilla against Cole Hamels. But it will take minor miracle for the Dodgers to turn this series around, having now lost all four postseason games at Citizens Bank Park in the past two years.

Only two teams have recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win an NLCS -- the 1996 Braves against St. Louis and the 2003 Marlins against the Cubs.

With last night's loss, the Dodgers dropped to 21-22 all-time in NLCS play.

  The Dodgers PR department pointed out that on this date in 1981, Dodger outfielder Rick Monday's ninth-inning homer in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Expos propelled the Dodgers to a 2-1 victory and the National League pennant. Seven years to the day of Monday's heroics in Montreal, Tim Belcher and Jay Howell limited to the A's to just three runs in the Dodgers' 4-3 victory over Oakland in Game 4 of the 1988 World Series. Los Angeles would win the sixth World Series in franchise history the very next night.   

  But that was another night in another century.

 Score by Innings
Los Angeles	000 211 000-4
Philadelphia	200 001 002-5	
 Dodgers	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	5  0  1  0  .125
Kemp cf        	4  2  1  1  .250
Ethier rf	4  0  0  0  .200
Ramirez lf	4  2  1  0  .250
 Pierre lf	0  0  0  0  .000
Loney lf	4  0  2  1  .257
Belliard 2b	3  0  1  0  .333
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
Martin c	3  0  1  1  .333
Blake 3b	4  0  1  1  .133
Wolf p        	3  0  0  0  .000
 Belisario p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Kuo p        	0  0  0  0  .000
 Sherrill p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Hudson 2b	1  0  0  0  .000
 Totals	        35  4  8  4
 Philadelphia	31  5  5  5 

  HR- Kemp (1). RBI- Loney (2), Martin
(2), Kemp (1), Blake (1). LOB- Los
Angeles 8, Philadelphia 6. SB- Blake
(1), Furcal (1). CS- Ethier (1).
 Dodgers	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Wolf        	5.1  4  3-3  2  2  5.06
Belisario 	0.1  0  0-0  0  0 11.57
Kuo         	1.1  0  0-0  0  0  0.00
Sherrill	0.2  0  0-0  1  1 16.20
Broxton (0-1)	1.0  1  2-2  1  0  6.00
 WP- Sherrill. HBP- by Sherrill, by Broxton. 
T- 3:44. Att- 46,157.