A bit of a rough night for one reliever Thursday doesn't change the fact that the bullpen is one of the great strengths of the '09 Dodgers. The greatest strength of that unit, meanwhile, is Broxton, who pitched a shutout ninth Thursday to give his team one last shot at a comeback win. When Torre gets to the ninth, he turns to the man sometimes called the "Ox," the 6-foot-4, 240-pound, gas-throwing Broxton. He heads the best bullpen remaining in these playoffs.
"We've been picking up a lot of big innings, and we've just got to keep it going," Broxton said.
The Dodgers' three playoff wins so far have shown the versatility of the Broxton-led 'pen. In Game 1 of the Division Series, Torre moved quickly to relieve a scuffling Randy Wolf, using five relievers to get through the last 5 1/3 innings. In Game 2, he turned to righty-killer Ronald Belisario in the seventh, Broxton against the Cardinals' heavy-hitting right-handers in the eighth and George Sherrill in the ninth.
And in Saturday's clincher, he did it in classic style. Starter Vicente Padilla went seven innings, Sherrill set up in the eighth and Broxton brought it home by getting the last four outs. It's hard for Torre to make a misstep with a crew like this, and it will be hard for the Phillies to overcome any late-inning deficits.
"That's a big challenge. ... Their left-handed pitchers are big-stuff pitchers," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "They're very good. And then they've got Broxton at the end. Yeah, I mean, that's a concern. Basically once they get to those guys, that gives them a big, big chance."
It's the lefties that may be the biggest challenge for the Phillies. Manuel typically writes out a very heavily left-handed lineup, with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez in the heart of the order. With new acquisition Sherrill and Hong-Chih Kuo available for matchup duty, Torre has two serious weapons to counter the Phils' sluggers, though he hesitated to go to either one in the fifth inning Thursday.
Moreover, neither Sherrill nor Kuo is the typical lefty specialist, hopeless against right-handed hitters. Torre can use either man for a full inning, even if it means a right-handed batter or two coming to the plate.
If the Phillies' lefty stars come up in the ninth, though, it will be Broxton's job to get them out. The mix-and-match strategy that Torre used against St. Louis won't be in play against Philadelphia.
"I don't see their lineup makeup as needing to flip-flop them," Torre said.
Broxton certainly held his own against the teeth of the Phillies on Thursday. He got a flyout from leadoff man Jimmy Rollins, allowed a single to Shane Victorino and then got out of it against the two most dangerous Phillies, Utley and Howard. He has the stuff, the command and the demeanor to take on anyone.
Now the Dodgers just need to get him another lead to bring home.