The Dodgers lost tonight's game 4-1 to the Cubs, but it may be worse for closer Jonathan Broxton, or for the remnants of a bullpen lacking a true solution to their growing woes. Broxton retired Aramis Ramirez on a popup to open the top of the ninth inning, but walked the next two batters on eight pitches. Broxton threw 10 fastballs in the ninth inning, per MLB Gameday, at an average of 91.2 mph (not counting one pitch at 87, classified as a changeup), topping out at 93 twice.
Broxton was removed by Don Mattingly after the second walk, in favor of Blake Hawksworth. After getting Alfonso Soriano to flyout to center for the second out, Hawksworth gave up a double to the right center field gap, scoring two runs. Old friend Blake DeWitt added an RBI single to give the Cubs a 4-1 lead, more than enough for Carlos Marmol to hold.
Regarding Broxton, this may have been the final straw in terms of keeping his closer spot. After the game, Mattingly told reporters that Broxton was still his closer, but didn't sound convincing. "When guys tell you they're fine, you believe that. The inconsistency in velocity concerns me. You don't know if you're getting the whole story. We need to figure this thing out," Mattingly said (as relayed on DodgerTalk on KABC).
Whether he is hurt -- his average fastball Monday night, for instance, was 94.3 mph, much better than tonight -- or whether the club decides to pick another of many flawed options, I don't imagine we will see Broxton in the ninth inning anytime soon.
Lost in the poor bullpen performance tonight were several things:
- The Dodgers offense managed just one run against the normally good Ryan Dempster, who had entered tonight with the worst ERA in MLB (9.58)
Chad Billingsley pitched a great game in his own right, allowing just one run in seven innings, with eight strikeouts. Unfortunately, that one run came in the seventh inning with a 1-0 lead, as Carlos Peña slugged his first home run of the season for Chicago. The $10 million man was hitting .157/.286/.171 before tonight's game, with one extra-base hit (a double)
- Andre Ethier got a single, just over the outstretched glove of second baseman Darwin Barney, in the fourth inning, extending his hitting streak to 29 games. Ethier is now tied with Zack Wheat (in 1916) for the second-longest hitting streak in Dodgers history, just two games shy of Willie Davis.
- Matt Kemp, who went 16 games without a stolen base before Monday, stole a base tonight for the second straight game.
- Marcus Thames, who was placed on the DL today with a strained right quad, will be out four to six weeks. Yikes.
Jay Gibbons, who was activated off the DL today, had his first plate appearance of the season, in the seventh inning against Dempster. Gibbons lasted long, a 10-pitch at-bat, but ultimately struck out.
WP - Kerry Wood (1-1): 1 IP, 1 strikeout
LP - Jonathan Broxton (1-2): 1/3 IP, 2 runs, 2 walks
Sv - Carlos Marmol (8): 1 IP, 1 strikeout