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Dodgers obey the law of average

Playing like the mediocre team they apparently are, they fall back to .500 with a 5-2 loss to Phillies in 11 innings as Broxton blows another save.

August 25, 2008|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- The Dodgers can't score. They can't hit for power. Their closer can't find the strike zone. And, not undeservedly, they are a .500 team.

But, hey, they're still three games out of first place in the National League West. They can't excuse themselves from this pennant race no matter how hard they try, and they tried awfully hard Sunday night.

So hard, in fact, that Manager Joe Torre told his players to stay away from the ballpark as long as possible tonight. The game starts at 7, and most players would be here by 4. Torre told them to show up at 6, and never mind the batting practice.

"Let's just get dressed and play a game," Torre said.

The Dodgers (65-65) walked off the field with heads down Sunday, when Pedro Feliz hit a three-run walk-off home run in the 11th inning, giving the Philadelphia Phillies a 5-2 victory at Citizens Bank Park.

The Dodgers scored three runs or fewer for the sixth consecutive game. They would have won anyway, had Jonathan Broxton not blown a save, losing command of the strike zone because of what he called a flaw in his delivery.

"I can't get out of it right now," Broxton said. "It's just a little bump in the road. I'll be out of it shortly."

He has been scored upon in five of his last eight outings, with two blown saves, three losses and an earned-run average of 7.88 in that stretch.

In one breath, Torre said Broxton would remain the closer. In the next, he said the Dodgers could use Hong-Chih Kuo if the opponent had left-handed hitters due up in the ninth, although Torre said that would have been a possibility even had Broxton not struggled again Sunday.

The Dodgers handed him a 2-1 lead, with three outs to get. He threw two balls to Shane Victorino, who singled. After Eric Bruntlett sacrificed Victorino to second, Broxton went to a full count against Jayson Werth, then struck him out.

And then the Phillies used Andy Tracy as a pinch-hitter, in his first appearance in the major leagues since 2004. Whatever nerves Tracy might have had never had a chance to come into play, since Broxton walked Tracy on four pitches.

Feliz followed, and Broxton threw two more balls. Then, after six consecutive balls, Broxton threw a strike -- and Feliz pounced on it, driving a single into center field that scored Victorino with the tying run and sent the game into extra innings.

The Dodgers looked utterly atrocious in the final three innings, and not only because of Broxton's inability to throw strikes. In the 11th, defensive substitutes Angel Berroa and Pablo Ozuna collided and nearly dropped a routine pop fly. In the 10th, Casey Blake hit into a double play with the bases loaded and none out.

"There's a variety of things that could have happened other than a ground ball to third base," Blake said. "How about even a strikeout?"

How about an extra-base hit? Nomar Garciaparra has gone 34 at-bats without one, Manny Ramirez 23, Jeff Kent 20 and Blake 18.

The Dodgers even struggled to get on base in the first inning, when Andre Ethier needed five balls to draw a walk. Ethier had the correct count and said so, but the plate umpire and the scoreboard disagreed. "That's how the year's been for me," Ethier said.

For the Dodgers, too.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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