Fans react as Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton as he makes his way to dugout… (Gus Ruelas / Associated…)
The streak triggered a strong reaction from the crowd, but this one wasn't for Andre Ethier.
Yes, Ethier had hit safely in his 29th consecutive game earlier in game. But it was the eight consecutive balls thrown by the Dodgers' struggling closer, Jonathan Broxton, in the ninth inning that triggered roaring boos throughout Dodger Stadium.
At that point, Manager Don Mattingly yanked Broxton and brought in Blake Hawksworth, who got the second out against the Chicago Cubs and looked as though he might salvage the game for the Dodgers on Tuesday night.
But then Hawksworth gave up a two-run double to Geovany Soto, a run-scoring single to pinch-hitter and former Dodger Blake DeWitt, and the Cubs had a 4-1 victory thanks to Broxton's inability to shut the door.
Mattingly, noting that Broxton had retired the side for his seventh save the night before, said Broxton's collapse Tuesday was confusing.
"More than anything the puzzling part is one day good and one day not coming out the same way," Mattingly said. "We've got to find out exactly what's going on."
Asked whether Broxton was still his closer, Mattingly said, "Right now he is," but that Broxton's "inconsistency is kind of puzzling. We've got to talk about it."
The loss not only wasted a strong outing by Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, who gave up only one run in seven innings, it's sure to renew speculation that Broxton's days as the Dodgers' primary closer are numbered if not over.
Broxton threw only 11 pitches before he was removed and, after the roof caved in, his earned-run average had swelled to 5.68.
"Tonight it just wasn't there," Broxton said. "I can't point to one thing, just couldn't get the last two outs, couldn't throw a strike."
Ethier's hit, a single to right field in the fourth inning that was the Dodgers' first hit, came against starter Ryan Dempster, spoiling the pitcher's 34th birthday but coming as no surprise. Ethier began the game batting .368 against the right-hander.
Ethier got the hit moments after he swung and missed a Dempster pitch and his black bat flew into the crowd a few rows behind the Cubs' dugout on the first base side. Ethier got another bat and stroked the ball safely over second baseman Darwin Barney.
He's now tied with Zack Wheat for the second-longest hitting streak in franchise history; Wheat's streak came with the Brooklyn Robins in 1916. The franchise record of 31 was set by Willie Davis in 1969.
Although the Dodgers pounded Dempster for seven runs in 52/3 innings when the teams played last month in Chicago, Dempster arrived at Dodger Stadium with a 7-3 record against the Dodgers and matched Billingsley for five scoreless innings.
But in the sixth inning, Jamey Carroll led off with a single and moved to second base on Jerry Sands' sacrifice bunt. After Ethier grounded out, Kemp singled to center field, driving in Carroll to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.
Chicago tied the score in the seventh inning when Carlos Pena, the left-handed first baseman who began the game hitting .157, drilled a no-doubt home run to right field for his first home run.
The Dodgers got a break in the fourth inning, thanks to a heads-up play by Carroll, the shortstop.
Aramis Ramirez hit a ball off the center-field wall and slid in at second base ahead of Matt Kemp's throw. But Carroll kept his glove on Ramirez's body and, as Ramirez rose to his feet, Carroll tagged him out.