And then Broxton showed he was afraid of Matt Stairs, all because last year Matt Stairs hit a home run that changed last year's series. I don't want to be Bill Plaschke, talking about the ghosts of years past or whatever, but why was Broxton afraid? Matt Stairs has a below-.200 average, and he hit all of five home runs this year. With no one on base, even if Stairs did knock one out, the game would only be tied. And I'm sorry, but Stairs was not hitting it out of that park last night. So you pitch to him, and you get him out. Then there are two outs and maybe Broxton isn't so nervous that he hits Ruiz with the pitch, putting the winning run on base.
I can't not blame Broxton here. I'm sorry. I know he was a great closer all year, and that some people were too soon to jump on him when he had a couple of bad games. I don't care about all that. What I care about is him coming into a must-win game in the playoffs and not being chickenshit about a 40-year old who can count his home runs this year on one hand. And if he's going to be chickenshit about that, then I care that he better be damn sure he can get the next two outs with a runner on base. And if he can't, and he instead hits a batter, then manages a line drive out, I care about him not grooving a fastball over the heart of the plate to a leadoff hitter who is just looking for a pitch to drive.
This is not a matter of Broxton making just one mistake. A home run to tie the game would have been one mistake. An "unintentional" walk, followed by a hit batter, then followed by a ball scorched to the gap, those are a lot of damn mistakes. You blew it, big boy. And it's totally on you.
I don't really want to talk about the strike zone, which absolutely, positively sucked. But I will encourage you to go look at this image. Look how many pitches right in the middle of the plate were called balls. Now, sure, there are a few from Phillies' pitchers in there, but the majority are pitches thrown by a Dodger pitcher for strikes, but for whatever reason called balls. I don't want to be the one who whines about bad umps, but there are moments in games when those calls matter. And in a close game like this, it matters that the ump is not calling strike three on obvious strikes. The guy was a joke, and if he is behind the plate again in these playoffs, MLB has some explaining to do.
So, I spent my morning reading what the Sons have to say about this, along with Dodger Thoughts and Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness. And then I thought some more about how I felt last night, about how Christine went into the kitchen to heat us up some spaghetti (we had been afraid to eat during the game), and had to ask me to stop ranting because she was sick of crying. I wanted to cry. I felt like sobbing. But it just wouldn't come. I seethed with anger instead, and that continued into this morning, especially the more I read about how everyone else felt.
Then I went over to Surviving Grady, just to get away from the outright sadness everywhere in the Dodger world. That's when I read this, and I felt just a little bit better. Now, I realize that most of my readers are not Red Sox fans. But that's not really the point here. Just think back to 2004. Think back to game three of that ALCS, and how the Red Sox had their asses handed to them in a 19-8 romp. Then remember game four, where they were down going into the ninth against Rivera. But then came the walk from Millar, the steal by pinch runner Roberts, and the tying hit from Bill Mueller. And a little while later, the win. Just one game, but the Sox were back in it. And they came all the way back, shocking the Yankees and moving on to the World Series.
I know that these Dodgers are not the 2004 Red Sox. But do you really think the 2009 Phillies are the 2004 Yankees? No way. Look, I'm not saying I fully believe the Dodgers can come back from this. And if they win tomorrow night, we might just be setting ourselves up for seeing the Phillies celebrate on our field. But do we want to root against our own team tomorrow night just so we don't have to have see a Phillies celebration? Do we want to really see the baseball season end so badly that we're willing to ignore any possibility of a miracle?
Yes, I know we'll have to see Cliff Lee in a game seven, should it get there. But if we force a game seven after going down 3-1, don't you think we'll have the Phillies against the ropes a little bit? And wouldn't you like to see the boys in blue at least try to make that happen?
I'll tell you right now, I do not give a flying fig about a Phillies/anyone World Series. So the season will be over for me the second the Dodgers are out of this. That means that I just have to keep reminding myself that the Dodgers are not out of this. Sure, I'm going to go through some moments in the next 30 hours during which I will be completely convinced that the Dodgers are toast. But I'm going to push through those, and the subsequent nausea, and I'm going to tell myself to believe.
Because just remember--if we take this back to Dodger Stadium, we'll get a little of this:
And as corny as we've all thought the "Don't Stop Believin'" song has been all year, it's pretty much the most important message we, as Dodger fans, can hear right now. If the Dodgers lose this series, you can be negative and angry and sad and all of that, and you can bet I'll be right there with you.
But for now, let's just try to focus on how good it will feel if we can make the Phillies sweat this one a little bit. Send those positive vibes out into the world and see what comes back to us. It can't hurt, right?