Jonathan Broxton reacts after giving up Matt Stairs' two-run homer… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
SAN FRANCISCO — Jonathan Broxton won't say it, but he seems bothered by how fans of his former team view him.
Broxton saved 84 games for the Dodgers and represented them at two All-Star games. But in Los Angeles, he's remembered more for two encounters he had with Matt Stairs that contributed to two of the most devastating defeats in the Dodgers' recent history.
"I'm not getting into that," Broxton says.
Broxton is the setup man for the Cincinnati Reds, who hold a 2-0 edge over the San Francisco Giants in a best-of-five National League division series. Game 3 will be in Cincinnati on Tuesday.
Broxton insists the pain of his past doesn't serve as motivation for him in these playoffs.
He might not want to talk about how others perceive his postseason failures, but he wants others to know how he perceives them.
"I don't lose sleep over it," he says.
The Dodgers were tied with the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-5, when Broxton was called out of the bullpen in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the 2008 NL Championship Series. Had the Dodgers won that game, they would have tied the series.
But the first batter Broxton faced, 40-year-old pinch-hitter Stairs, sent a 3-1 pitch halfway up the right-field pavilion at Dodger Stadium for a two-run home run. The Phillies went on to win the game, as well as the series.
A year later, Broxton faced Stairs in another Game 4 of the NL Championship Series. This time, with the Dodgers leading by a run, Broxton walked him on four pitches with one out in the ninth inning at Philadelphia. Stairs was replaced by pinch runner Eric Bruntlett, who scored the first of two runs driven in on Jimmy Rollins' walk-off double with two out. Again, the Phillies won the game and went on to win the series.
"I really don't think about it," Broxton says.
But Broxton is at least philosophically consistent. He also downplays what former Dodgers manager Joe Torre often pointed to as his crowning moment: his four-out save against the Chicago Cubs to close out a 2008 division series.
"I saved a lot of games over there," Broxton says. "It's just that more people were watching that one because it was the playoffs."
Broxton's last season with the Dodgers, in 2011, was cut short by an elbow operation. Intending to rebuild himself in a small market, Broxton signed a one-year contract with the Kansas City Royals in the off-season. He became their closer and was acquired by the Reds at the trade deadline.
"I was fortunate enough to be traded to a good team and be back in the playoffs," he says. "It's a feeling you'll never feel anything close to. It doesn't matter if it's the first round or the league championship series. It's a different feeling. Every pitch is important. Every at-bat is big. It's not 162 games. It's that day. It's five games. It's way more adrenaline."
He acknowledges he didn't always channel that adrenaline the right way.
"Compared to when I first was in the playoffs, I've calmed down a lot," Broxton says. "And if you control yourself, you make better pitches."
He says that was the case on Saturday, when he pitched his way into trouble in Game 1 against the Giants. With the Reds holding a 3-1 lead, he walked Brandon Belt to put runners on first and second with two out. The next batter, Gregor Blanco, worked the count full. Broxton struck him out looking.
"No matter how much trouble you're in, you're always one pitch away from getting out of it," he says. "That's the way I see it."
Though he might be better at controlling his nerves, Broxton admits he isn't certain how he would respond to unfamiliar circumstances.
"If I get to the World Series, Game 7, I don't know …," he says, laughing. "It would be different."