Reporting from St. Louis —
Jonathan Broxton wouldn't make any excuses, but his manager had no such reservations.
"We asked too much out of Brox," Joe Torre said.
What the Dodgers asked their closer to do Sunday was to get five outs and preserve what remained of what was once a four-run lead against the St. Louis Cardinals.
He gave up a run-scoring single to Randy Winn in the eighth inning.
He gave up a score-tying run on a single to Allen Craig in the ninth inning. Then came the death blow, a ball hit by Matt Holliday that soared over the outstretched glove of a dashing Andre Ethier and that drove in the deciding run.
Cardinals 5, Dodgers 4. Four-game sweep completed.
Everything the Dodgers did right up to that point — Vicente Padilla's six scoreless innings, Garret Anderson's run scoring-double, Ronnie Belliard's slump-busting two hits — were reduced in significance.
Broxton hadn't pitched since earning a save at the All-Star game, but the environment he entered Sunday was particularly undesirable.
The temperature at Busch Stadium was 89 degrees during the ninth inning. Because of the 64% humidity, weather services reported that it felt like it was 99 degrees.
Broxton threw 44 pitches in that heat. He had to face Holliday twice.
"It's much tougher under these conditions," Torre said. "This takes a lot out of you. We had to go to him too early today."
The reason was that the Dodgers were out of arms.
Hong-Chih Kuo pitched the previous day, and because he has had four elbow surgeries, Torre has done everything possible to avoid using the left-hander on consecutive days. Jeff Weaver also pitched the previous day, and Torre said he didn't want to use the right-hander on consecutive days in that kind of weather.
Ronald Belisario is in a substance-abuse treatment program, his return date unknown. Ramon Troncoso is in triple A working on his mechanics.
So with the Dodgers holding on to a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning, Torre sent rookie Travis Schlichting to the mound. After a nervous but scoreless seventh, Torre sent the right-hander back out in the eighth.
Schlichting walked Brendan Ryan and Jon Jay, prompting Torre to hand the ball to Justin Miller, whom the manager later described as "more of a middle-of-the-game or length guy."
Miller promptly served up a two-run double to Craig that closed the gap to 4-2.
Torre said he thought he had to turn to Broxton.
"When we got to the point of the tying run coming to the plate, I felt it was necessary to go to him," Torre said. "I certainly don't want to go to him for more than four outs, and in this weather, I didn't want to go to him for four outs. I had to go to him for five."
What transpired was similar to what happened June 27, when Broxton blew a four-run lead against the New York Yankees.
As was the case then, Broxton shouldered the responsibility for the loss.
Of being forced to face Holliday twice, he said, "It doesn't matter to me. I got myself into bad counts and walked guys. It shouldn't have gotten back around to him."
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