Reporting from Philadelphia
Manager Joe Torre wouldn't say that Jonathan Broxton was no longer the Dodgers' closer. But he also wouldn't say that he still was.
"Let the smoke clear here before you get me to say something I didn't think about," Torre said.
Looking drained, Torre sighed. The clubhouse next to the manager's office was silent.
The Dodgers on Thursday were dealt what Torre said might be their toughest defeat of a turbulent season, as they blew a seven-run lead over the last two innings to lose, 10-9, to the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
Broxton took the mound at the start of the bottom of the ninth inning with a 9-6 lead. He hit a batter, walked two more, then saw the Dodgers' advantage reduced to a single run when a chopper bounced through the parted legs of third baseman Casey Blake.
And when Carlos Ruiz smashed a ball into the wall in left-center for a double to drive in Jayson Werth and Ben Francisco, the Dodgers fell nine games back of the San Diego Padres in the National League West and 6 1/2 games back of the San Francisco Giants in the wild-card race.
The Phillies flooded out of their dugout, the scene a familiar one to the Dodgers, who have fallen to them in the last two National League Championship Series.
Broxton's latest meltdown — the blown save was his fifth of the season — was set up by Ronald Belisario, who was charged with four runs in the eighth inning without recording an out.
"The last two innings felt like it was a week and a half," Torre said.
Broxton had what appeared to be a potential turning point in his career last month, when he earned a save in the NL's first All-Star victory in 15 years.
The game turned out to be a turning point for the worse. In the eight games Broxton has pitched since the All-Star break, he has blown three saves and posted a 10.13 earned-run average.
Broxton insisted again after the loss Thursday that he wasn't hurt, and the radar gun supported his case by clocking his fastballs in the 95 to 98 mph range.
Asked whether he felt he was capable of handling the closer's role, Broxton said he did.
"I'm a little wild right now," he said. "Every pitcher goes through it. Hopefully, I'll be out of it shortly and be back to my normal self out there."
If Torre demotes Broxton, the most likely candidates to replace him would be All-Star left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo, rookie Kenley Jansen and recently acquired Octavio Dotel.
Torre said Broxton might have been shaken by pitching at Citizens Bank Park, where Broxton blew a save in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series last year. The defeat forced the Dodgers to head into the fifth game down, 3-1, instead of tied, 2-2.
Broxton denied that was the case.
Starting for the Phillies on Thursday was Joe Blanton, who started for them in Game 4 of the NLCS last year. Blanton was also the starter for the Phillies in Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS, when Broxton served up a two-home home run to pinch hitter Matt Stairs, which pushed the Dodgers to the brink of elimination.
On Thursday, the Dodgers had pounded Blanton for four runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings, inflating his already-inflated ERA to 5.69 before their own collapse.
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